Why a Continuum of Care is Important
At Volunteers of America, we serve people in need at all stages of their lives, from the very young to the very old. It’s that continuum of care that distinguishes us from other human service organizations.
Because of this, we often find ourselves serving some of the same people during their senior years that we helped decades earlier. Some of our oldest clients face an especially daunting combination of challenges … limited financial resources paired with age-related health problems and memory loss resulting from Alzheimer’s or similar conditions. It is those patients suffering from the disorienting effects of dementia – who often struggle simply to tell others about their needs – that pose some of the greatest challenges to us as care providers.
Today, we find more and more people turning to us because of the hands-on, highly-skilled nursing care we provide at locations throughout the country. This care covers a full continuum – from independent living apartments for active seniors, to around-the-clock care for those with memory issues or chronic health concerns – often provided on the same campus. This is an especially important field today as the Baby Boom generation ages and the number of Americans over the age of 65 continues to skyrocket. Increasingly, Volunteers of America has been called upon to offer specialized services for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related conditions at our senior residences. Typically, these are set aside in special “neighborhoods” with monitoring and staff trained in the care of elders with profound memory impairment.
It’s important to remember that inside every person suffering from Alzheimer’s-type dementia, no matter how disconnected they might seem from the world around them, lives the same person they were when they were younger. All the experiences, pains and passions from a lifetime are still within them, even if the disorientation of dementia prevents those memories and the resulting emotions to be expressed in ways that might be easier to understand.
For me, this is something very important to keep in mind because, just as every senior has a younger person inside, every younger person has their ultimate older self inside as well. I know I might ultimately be in a position where I must depend upon someone else to provide me with daily care, and Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia might prevent me from communicating in the way I do today. If I’m in that position, I hope I’ll be surrounded by people who have the empathy and understanding to connect with me.
Learn more about our work with seniors, including those affected by Alzheimer’s, by visiting www.voa.org/older-adults