Out And About: The Home Care Perspective
For Americans, the automobile has traditionally equaled independence. But the changes of aging, such as vision problems, hearing loss or reduced manual dexterity, make it unsafe for many seniors to drive. And once older adults give up the car keys, they may find that whether they live in a city, the suburbs or a rural area, getting around can be difficult. In a recent Caring Right at Home poll, almost a quarter of respondents named transportation as the greatest challenge to senior independence.
In-home care helps older adults continue their favorite hobbies and activities—inside and outside the home.
Sadly, for many older adults, giving up driving means that their world becomes smaller, with a loss of independence and connection to the community. The term that was once used for homebound seniors—"shut-in"—isn’t far off the mark. Staying inside every day can lead to social isolation, lack of stimulation, lessened physical activity, poor sleep and depression.
Life space and cognitive health
A recent study in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry demonstrated that a senior’s “life space” can affect brain health. Researchers at Chicago’s Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center define life space as “the extent to which we move through our environments as we carry out our daily lives—from home to garden to workplace and beyond.”
The study examined the life space of a group of seniors during a span of eight years, interviewing them to find out how far from home they typically ventured—outside their neighborhood, outside their city, or no farther than their home, yard, patio or porch. The subjects also were tested for cognitive health over the course of the study. According to study author Bryan James, the seniors who had “constricted life space” were almost twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's disease.
Experts in healthy aging advise seniors to participate as fully as possible in community life. Whether it is lunching with friends, going to the senior center, walking in a garden or participating in one’s faith community, visiting places we enjoy brings a health-promoting mood boost. A trip out need not be elaborate or planned in advance. Indeed, The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health recently reported that for seniors, shopping offers physical and emotional benefits—scientific evidence for the value of “retail therapy”! This makes sense when you consider that since the beginning of civilization, people have congregated in the marketplace. According to the study, there is more good news: You don’t even have to buy anything to benefit from a shopping outing.
Expand your life space!
Most seniors prefer to "age in place"—that is, to remain in the comfort and familiar surroundings of their own home. Home-dwelling seniors who don’t drive might rely on family, relatives or volunteers for transportation, but often express concern about "being an imposition." When it is safe and possible for them to do so, some older adults take the city bus or rapid transit. Some communities offer special transportation for seniors. Taxi cabs are another option, though the cost can add up quickly.
For seniors who are living at home and need assistance with the activities of daily living, in-home care can be the perfect resource to support independence in the community. Though many people envision home care services taking place only at home, professional in-home caregivers can actually be a great support to keep senior clients active in the community.
In-home care supports wellness and well-being, both at home and out on the town. A professional in-home caregiver can:
- Transport senior clients by car to events and activities, or accompany them on public transportation;
- Provide an extra measure of safety and security for seniors who are at risk of falling or becoming lost;
- Help clients manage walkers, wheelchairs and other mobility aids;
- Supervise and support clients who are dealing with memory loss and cognitive impairment;
- Enable senior clients to continue favorite activities, and locate new activities as health needs and abilities change;
- Ensure that clients fill prescriptions and arrive on time for healthcare appointments;
- Help clients feel at their best and prepared for outings with hygiene care, such as assistance with bathing, dressing and using the toilet; and,
- Take over “chauffeur duty” for family caregivers, who can go about their daily work and family routine with confidence, knowing their loved one is well cared for.
Most of us know the feeling of lethargy that results when we are stuck at home too long—“the blahs” that can disappear with a change of scenery. Seniors benefit by getting out of the house now and then. Professional in-home care helps them enjoy successful, safe outings.
Seniors and their loved ones may have conflicting ideas about whether it is still safe to drive. Read “Is It Time to Give Up the Car?” in the February 2010 issue of Caring Right at Home to find ideas for alternate transportation for older adults. If your loved one has early-stage dementia, read “When Should People with Alzheimer's Disease Stop Driving?” in the August 2010 issue.
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, franchised providers of in-home care services.