Preserving Your Loved One's Dignity With Home Care

Home care worker with client

As we grow older, managing health conditions often becomes more challenging. We might see so many doctors for our arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, memory loss, vision problems or other ailments that we eventually feel like no more than a collection of symptoms! Our self-esteem can suffer, leading to depression that makes it even harder to follow the doctors' recommendations.

Healthcare organizations and senior advocacy groups have been listening, and today there's an increasing emphasis on treating patients as the most important members of the care team — "person-centered care," experts call the new model. Person-centered care means whole-person care, not only treating a senior's health conditions, but also honoring their mind and spirit. Person-centered care focuses on a senior's strengths as well as their challenges.

Traditional care relies on measurements and tests to define successful treatment. In contrast, says the American Geriatrics Society (AGS), person-centered care "puts individual values and preferences at the heart of care decisions, measuring success by attention to people's health and life goals."

Participating in a recent AGS panel, Dr. Bruce Chernof of the SCAN Foundation noted, "Person-centered care is essential for older adults with chronic health conditions and functional limitations who need well-coordinated, team-based care. This concept shifts the success vision of healthcare to the things that matter most to people — how they are living every day with complex needs and achieving their personal goals. Person-centered care defines quality and value beyond technical measures of care toward dignity, respect of personal choices, and life outcomes achieved."

Empowering home care clients

Though the senior is the most important member of the team, today there's also an emphasis on "family-oriented care." Family caregivers have a huge impact on the well-being of senior loved ones — and in turn, the lives of family caregivers may be profoundly affected by the caregiving role.

In today's nursing homes, and assisted living and other senior care communities, there's a growing focus on resident self-determination and choices. Home care services, too, are changing with the times. Home care has always, by definition, allowed for a personalized accommodation of a senior's needs. And today, there is even more emphasis on empowering clients, whether services are provided in your loved one's home, in your own home if your loved one lives with you, or in a senior living community when your loved one needs extra help.

Every step of the way, work with the caregiver and home care agency to tailor care for your loved one:

Making the plan. You'll want to discuss a plan of care with everyone involved — your loved one, the agency, and family. This includes health management tasks such as medication reminders, supervision for exercise and transportation to the doctor’s office. Next, brainstorm beyond the basics of care. Ask questions. What does your loved one like to do? How would they like to spend their day? How can home care help them achieve those goals even as they are living with disabilities?

Caregiver carrying towels, walking upstairs with client

Expressing preferences. When we have mobility challenges, sensory impairment or memory problems, the simple joys of life sometimes seem out of reach. Home care services should align as much as possible with restoring those pleasures. What times of day does your loved one like to eat? What foods do they prefer? How can a restricted diet accommodate those preferences? Caregivers provide housekeeping services and laundry — how does your loved one like those things to be done?

Dignity in care. Good hygiene and looking our best are great boosts to our self-esteem. Bathing, dressing, grooming and going to the bathroom are things most of us would prefer to do by ourselves. But when health challenges make that difficult, having a professional help is the next best thing — for many seniors, preferable to relying on the help of a family member.

Remaining connected. You've probably heard the sad term "shut-in." Health challenges can keep seniors at home, robbing them of their sense of being valuable members of the community. Isolation and depression can quickly set in. In-home caregivers provide companionship and the personal touch — and beyond that, they can provide transportation to the places and events that your loved one enjoys.

Dementia care that respects the person. Many of the so-called “negative behaviors" we associate with Alzheimer's disease and related conditions are actually expressions of distress when a person's needs for dignity and control aren't being met. Says the Mayo Clinic, "Most behaviors such as anxiety or agitation are triggered by factors that can be altered, including the environment or our communication style. When we say or do things that threaten an individual's need for choice and control, they'll likely react with anger or agitation. Who can blame them?" Choose a caregiver from an agency that provides special training in dementia care.

Protecting family relationships. "My folks took care of me — now it's time for me to take care of them." This caregiver motto expresses the love we have for our elders — but, having to be cared for can be emotionally difficult for them! Bringing in professional care can change that dynamic. Even though the caregiver in time may feel like "one of the family," the professional relationship allows both the senior and the family to feel more in charge. Home care allows family caregivers to focus more on "family" and less on "caregiver."

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.