Please allow me to introduce myself before I speak about ‘Quality of Life’. My name is Tara Bradley and I am a Partner and the Director of Client Care at Seen Elder Care. I have over 10 years experience as a psychotherapeutic counselor, geriatric care manager, program director, and consultant. I am developing innovative care programming and managing the delivery of unparalleled home care and gcm services to the elders Sesen Elder Care serves. I am going to be blogging here about providing elders with the best quality of life possible.
I invite you to submit any comments you are called to share here, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call me directly at: (650) 425-6035 to discuss how to further support your loved one’s quality of life.
The question remains: “What is Quality of Life?” We hear so much about the quality of one’s care, but so much less about the quality of their lives. If care is but a part of their life, why is the focus on the care and not the life of, in this case, a senior. Is it because they are viewed as having less life left to live and are seen as mostly requiring care? Whatever the reason, those who focus on quality of life don’t have much time to contemplate this dynamic because they are busy trying to improve a senior’s life through activities programming, healthy eating and exercise habits, memory improvement programming, and in training their caregivers to support the senior’s passions. In order to discover a senior’s passions, even if they need dusting off, we must ask them what they love and what motivates them to get out of bed every morning. We can adopt this skill by simply asking at an appropriate time, “What are you passionate about?” The answers to this question define a senior’s quality of life.
Many times I hear the following answers to this question: “I don’t know”, “Do you mean what I used to be passionate about?”, “I’m not passionate about anything”, “I’m old-why are you talking about passion?” The responses mirror the younger person who goes to a job they are not passionate about performing every day while saying that they wish to one day hold a job they are passionate about or love to perform. If you ask them to give you an example of such, they will usually have to get back to you, saying that they haven’t given it much thought. This is because they do not think it is possible to provide service that they love to provide. Most people just assume that a senior’s quality of life is poor because they are old and usually not completely independent. What seniors with excellent caregivers and a good quality of life will tell you is that they now view their older age as a sabbatical and that they are having as much fun as they did in their 20′s. How can this be when they may need assistance with anything from bathing, walking, eating, or as private a task as walking to the bathroom?
It is in part due to how isolated we have become as a society for a variety of reasons whether it be proximity to our parents, not having had children, children who work full time or the fact that we are living longer. It used to be that familial units lived together and cared for their parents on a full time basis. Now that we are living in a country of two person incomes, and because we are living longer and therefore require more specialized care as we age, we have replaced familial care providers with strangers from home care companies. The difference between the quality of life an excellent caregiver provides and that of someone who sees caregiving as a job or a family member who is untrained to provide the care a senior may require, determines a senior’s quality of life. Instead of having strangers in their homes whom they do not trust, they adopt an excellent caregiver like a surrogate child and benefit from a lively household filled with the buzz of activity and hope for a bright tomorrow their children once provided or now provide on a less frequent basis. Receiving excellent home care from a caregiver can improve all aspects of a senior’s functioning including improvements to their mental, physical, emotional, psychological, and psychosocial status.
I have seen seniors bounce back from hip surgeries in their 80′s with dramatically improved gaits when a doctor had said they would be in a wheelchair for life if they did not perform the prescribed physical therapy exercises on a daily basis with a caregiver who knew how to correct their posture and encouraged them to do what they could on their own while spotting them. I have also witnessed seniors climb out of the depths of depression and apathy after receiving a chronic illness diagnosis or after being told that the cancer was back and surgery was no longer an option due to the support of excellent caregivers and caregiver supervisors. This was especially so when no one else could find the strength to renew their faith that life was worth continuing to live. Ultimately, one’s quality of life is determined and defined by oneself, at any age. I feel that my role as someone who wants to support an individual’s quality of life is to ask them what that means to them and how I could help them improve such if desired.
One thing is for sure: a person will light up more when you ask them how they think their quality of life could be improved vs. their quality of care because they know that the quality of one’s life is self-determined, as much as those around us continue to ask, in this case, the seniors in our life, “How is your quality of life?” In actuality we could ask, “How is your life?” because the answers will naturally speak to quality and the lack thereof. Warning: be prepared to implement the changes a senior requests to improve their quality of life in realistic, appropriate baby steps. Follow up with them on your progress, continue to implement their suggestions and I guarantee that you will improve their quality of life, their ability to get out of bed in the morning, and remembrance of what they are passionate about. For example, if your senior is a former business person, schedule a meeting to discuss the changes they requested that you are following up on, take notes, schedule a follow-up meeting that they record in their planner and watch what happens.
I will be posting tips, techniques, exercises, activities, and ideas here about how to improve the senior in your life’s quality of life. Please feel free to share the outcomes of these exercises with me on here. And don’t forget to ask yourself and the senior in your life what you’re passionate about as an assessment of your quality of life as much as possible for a healthy, happy life. Thanks for reading and caring about quality of life. You have improved mine in doing so.