Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Hierarchy of Needs for Today's Elderly

Today's elderly want more than longevity. 
 Learn about their hierarchy of needs.

Long ago, in 1942, when Abraham Maslow introduced his hierarchy of needs model, the bulk of today’s elderly were just toddlers.  Over the years Maslow’s hierarchy model, which is based on graduating levels of human needs, has been applied to a variety of economic and social situations. When applied to the needs of the elderly, it shows five areas that contribute to quality of life for the aging rather than the common health care focus of longevity of life.  For many of today’s aging, gaining longevity is not enough unless it is coupled with a high quality of life.  Knowing what the hierarchy of needs is for elders can help family and caregivers assist their elders in achieving the highest level of satisfaction, self-esteem and self-actualization.

·       Physiological needs – All people, no matter their age, start with the most basic of requirements.  Food, drink, shelter, sleep and treatment of illness and injury are all fundamental to survival.  When providing care for the elderly, this is the area that most caregivers focus on.  Providing these basics, especially with the focus on health for the frail and disabled, takes the bulk a caregiver’s time and energy.  Although essential, meeting physiological needs is more about survival and does not necessarily ensure quality of life for the aged.
·        Security needs – Once physical survival is safeguarded the next rung up the ladder is security.  This is an issue that many adult children of aging parents worry about and often the source of conflict between the generations. The elderly, especially those who feel vulnerable due to injury or illness, desire a sense of security. Yet they will often react with anger at being treated like a toddler, especially from their offspring. Sensitivity is needed when discussing security concerns such as driving, maintaining the house or even being alone at home.  When intervention is taken for safety sake, the aging can strongly react to the loss of their independence.  It is wise to replace that loss through transportation services and in-home care.

·      Social needs – Being connected socially is very important to all people, but for the elderly it becomes a key quality of life concern.  Due to health issues or lack of ability to get out, the aging often find their social opportunities shrinking and they spend more of their time alone.  The elderly need opportunities to become involved socially with family, friends and the community.  Attending functions at the local senior centers, volunteering or connecting through social media can help the elderly feel like a contributing member of society.

·   Self-Esteem needs – The elderly, like all people, want to feel recognized and appreciated for their ideas, abilities and talents.  The aging often lose their sense of worth when illness, disability or frailty limits them.  The loss of self worth is devastating to an elder’s well being and can be linked to depression and increased mortality.  Caregivers need to add to their loved one’s quality of life by working together on project that boost self-esteem.  Enjoying hobbies or pursuing projects such as writing memoirs, or constructing a legacy album or recording family stories can elevate self-esteem.

·       Self-Actualization needs – According to Maslow the highest rung of the hierarchy is the need for self-actualization. This status is reached by relatively few people and those who do share some common traits.  They tend to concentrate on the reality of life rather than wishful thinking. They are problem solvers and not complainers.  They also have a viewpoint that their life’s journey is just as important as their final destination. With all the experience of life and maturity, the elderly should be prime candidates to reach self-actualization.  Yet the process of aging often strips our elders of the higher levels of the self-actualization, self-esteem and social connection, leaving today’s aging just hanging on to the lower levels of survival.

Family and caregivers need to be aware of the many needs the elderly and actively provide opportunities to help their elders rise up each level of the hierarchy to the point where life is truly cherished rather than just survived.

Kate McCarthy is Director of Operations for HomeAid Health Care which provides non-medical home services for the elderly who wish to remain safe and independent at home.  HomeAid is a sister company to family owned, Prairie Home Assisted Living in Menasha. Together the two companies provide comprehensive care for the elderly in Appleton, Neenah and Menasha and throughout the Fox Valley.

Sources:  “The Handbook of Live-in Care” by Kathy N. Johnson, PhD, CMC, James H. Johnson, PhD & Lily Sarafan, MS. 2011, Home Care Assistance, Inc.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Considering the Care Years

Considering the Care Years
By Kate McCarthy, Director of Operations at HomeAid Health Care
Prepare in advance for the years ahead.

Many medical advances have been made which help people enjoy a longer life span than ever before.  New medications and surgical techniques enable people to live longer, yet the quality of life during those gained years remains a concern for most seniors.  Health issues plus physical and mental changes due to the natural aging process require consideration and preparation.   Being prepared for the Care Years calls for planning that should be done long in advance.
Most people recognize that there are two major stages that people experience when entering their senior years.  There are the well-deserved, relaxed and independent years that people look forward to when retiring.  Then there are years marked by changing health and increasing dependency on others.  These are the Care Years.  Despite the need for additional assistance, the Care Years can be a very fulfilling time in a person’s life, if they are prepared.

It is a good idea to make a plan about how to manage the Care Years long before they arrive.  Here are some of the issues to consider:
·        Documentation issues.  Be sure that all your necessary financial, legal and insurance documents are up-to-date and are in order.
·        Health Plan Issues.  Be sure your health plan takes into consideration the financial impact of any changing health needs.
·        Medical Issues.  Be sure to discuss all medications taken and their potential side effects with your health care provider. Consider being proactive about possible medical concerns long before they become a problem.
·        Safety Issues.  Be sure to prepare your home with necessary safety measures to prevent accidents or falls. Stylish additions and improvements can be made to the kitchen and bathroom which enable a person to remain safely at home rather than having to move into a facility.
·        Cognitive Issues.  Be aware of the subtle signs of Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and know where to turn to for help.
·        Medical Emergency Issues.  Be sure to know what to do and who to call if an emergency occurs.
·        Assistance Issues.  Be aware of all community and government programs available that assist with senior health issues. Also consider what additional help will be needed and where to find that assistance.
·        End-of-Life issues.  Be sure that there is a written Will, power of attorney has been established on your behalf and family members know your preferences.
There are a wide range of care options available for seniors once they are in their Care Years.  There are home based medical and non-medical services, rehabilitation services, skilled nursing services, adult daycare services and assisted living facilities and nursing home facilities.  Each option meets specific needs of the elderly and should be considered according to the amount of care needed. 
It is also wise to consider the cost of the Care Years in advance.  Estimating the amount of coverage provided by your insurance carrier, Medicaid as well as what will have to be paid for privately helps when working out financial considerations for the future.
There are a lot of issues to consider with aging, but it is easier to enjoy life when you are ready for the Care Years in advance.

Kate McCarthy is Director of Operations for HomeAid Health Care which provides non-medical home services for the elderly who wish to remain safe and independent at home.  HomeAid is a sister company to Prairie Home Assisted Living which has served the  physical, spiritual, mental and health needs of their residents since 1999.  Together the two companies provide comprehensive care that meets the needs of the elderly in Appleton, Neenah, Menasha and around the Fox Valley.