Home Care Supports Our Senior Neighbors

August 4, 2015, Is National Night Out

Professional caregiver assisting a senior client up a walkway.

Does your neighborhood participate in National Night Out? Each year on the first Tuesday of August, neighbors come together to hold block parties, barbecues and even parades. Sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch, National Night Out was designed to promote safety and crime prevention—and it also has proven to be a great way for neighbors to get to know each other better.

Safety isn't the only benefit of having a relationship with those who live around us. University of Michigan researcher Eric Kim recently published a pair of studies examining the health benefits of a friendly neighborhood. Said Kim, "Studies in the past have typically looked at a neighborhood's physical environment and its association with health. We looked at the social environment." The first study, which appeared in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, found that congenial, supportive neighborhoods reduce the risk of heart attack for those who live there. The second study found that seniors who feel connected to their neighbors have a lower risk of stroke.

Sadly, many of our neighborhoods are less friendly than they used to be. People relocate more frequently these days. We spend more of our leisure time in front of the TV or computer screen—indeed, we might see our neighbors more on Facebook than in person! We no longer spend warm summer evenings on the front porch, but instead hole up in air-conditioning. Worried about crime, people build taller fences and keep their doors and windows closed. Children are less likely to roam the neighborhood freely.

This is why in many American communities, older residents provide a neighborhood's sense of continuity and community. These elders keep an eye on things during the day when most folks are at work. They greet new neighbors and share neighborhood histories. In turn, neighbors often step in to help neighborhood seniors. A teen might mow the lawn or shovel snow; another neighbor might provide a ride for an elder who can no longer drive. Neighbors check up on elders when there's an emergency. When a senior suffers a health crisis, it is often a neighbor who contacts their adult children or the local senior services agency.

But as seniors experience a decline in physical or cognitive health, they often need more help than neighbors are able to provide. Sometimes moving to an assisted living facility, nursing home or other senior living community is the best choice. Yet most seniors—up to 90 percent, according to the AARP—would prefer to receive care at home, among familiar faces and surroundings.

Resources are available to support these seniors who choose to age in place. Home modifications can make the house or apartment more functional and safe for a resident with mobility or sensory challenges. Communities offer support services such as senior centers, chore services, accessible transportation and meal delivery programs. And for many seniors, in-home care is the key to remaining safe and well-cared for in their familiar environment. Professional in-home caregivers provide a variety of services for community-dwelling seniors:

Housekeeping. A home that is no longer kept up often is the first sign that a senior is having trouble living independently. In-home caregivers keep the home clean and in good order by vacuuming, dusting, cleaning floors, organizing drawers and closets, and removing hazards that could cause a debilitating fall. A tidy home makes anyone more confident to receive a visit from neighbors.

Personal care and nutrition. In-home caregivers assist with bathing, dressing, grooming and laundry, so clients feel confident and at their best both at home and around the neighborhood. Caregivers also go to the grocery store and prepare meals for clients—perhaps helping clients host a luncheon gathering or other get-together of neighbors.

Transportation. Seniors who no longer drive can become isolated. They might find themselves relying more on neighbors for a ride—and this is a situation that can have many pitfalls. Professional caregivers provide transportation to doctor appointments and the pharmacy, the client's faith community, shopping centers and other outings that keep clients active and engaged.

Peace of mind for everyone. We're often reminded that in-home care provides reassurance for families. Don't forget that neighbors worry, too! Greeting a neighborhood senior who's out for a walk with a caring helper gives neighbors a good feeling about the well-being of their valued community member.

For information on topics related to home care and healthcare, visit our Home Care and Healthcare Advocacy group on LinkedIn.

Right at Home, Inc. is a national organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for those we serve. We fulfill that mission through a dedicated network of locally owned providers of in home care services.