Integrated care is a worldwide health trend that is currently transforming how healthcare is done and taught at hospitals, clinics, and schools. In the medical field, integrated care refers specifically to an approach where primary health care and mental health care are combined in one setting, creating a team-based approach that treats patients as whole people instead of just a collection of symptoms. It’s driven by our growing understanding of humans as interconnected organisms, and increasingly, by scientific research showing its benefits.
But the medical field isn’t the only place where an understanding of the connection between physical and mental health is changing how professionals approach eldercare. In the context of senior care centers, integrated care refers to care that goes beyond attending to physical needs like food and comfort and caring for seniors’ mental and social health too.
Here is why integrated senior care is important, and how it works.
Why integrated senior care is important
There are a wide variety of benefits to integrated senior care. Here are a few of the most important ones.
1. Better health outcomes
Today, we have a robust and growing understanding of the link between mental and physical health. People with poor physical health are more likely to suffer from poor mental health, and people battling mental health issues are much more likely to suffer from chronic disease. For example, studies have shown that depression increases your risk of heart disease.
The scientific evidence just confirms what we already know: our mind affects our body, and our body affects our mind. It follows that caring for people’s mental health—keeping them active, providing companionship, and helping them maintain independence—will help provide better long-term health outcomes and increased life expectancy.
2. Supports independence
An integrated approach to senior care also allows for greater independence. When care providers see their job as more than simply attending to physical needs, they incorporate other elements—like events, games, walks, reading, and just time spent listening—that help your loved one stay more active and independent.
Independence is more than just having someone who can help take care of bills, run errands, or schedule appointments. It means continuing to do the things that you love to do. Integrated senior care is an approach that recognizes the importance of this.
3. Makes people happier
When seniors are healthy, independent, and doing the things they enjoy, they are much happier overall. There is a practical aspect to this: as discussed earlier, happier people are healthier people. But happiness is also something worth pursuing for its own sake. Quality of life is just as important, if not more important, than the length of life.
Too often, we think of helping older people primarily as attending to their physical needs, when in reality there is more to comprehensive care. We want people to live happier lives, not just longer ones.
4. Lightens family loads
Happier loved ones means you can worry less, and enjoy the time you spend with them more. It means you can rest easy knowing that even when you are not around they are getting not just their basic needs taken care of but their whole person.
You know that people need more than just food and hygiene to flourish. Integrated senior care allows you to share the responsibility of meeting your loved one’s full range of needs with a care provider.
How it works
So how does integrated senior care work in practice? Here are a few ways.
Perhaps the most important element of integrated senior care is intentional companionship. Yes, there are specific activities and exercises that are part of it, but the thread tying them all together is having some meaningful companionship.
Being lonely and isolated isn’t good for anyone. Having an in-home care provider that isn’t just there to clean up is important. It means there’s someone to play a game with, read a book with, or just to talk to.
Hobbies and activities
We all know that staying busy is an important part of staying healthy as you grow older. Many seniors have hobbies and activities they like to do but that are harder to keep up as they get older and need more help. Having an in-home care provider who sees it as part of their job to help your loved one pursue their interests is another important aspect of integrated care.
Gardening, reading, making crafts, collecting stamps, making photo albums, or cooking as just a few of the activities care providers can help seniors keep doing.
Outings and events
It’s good to get out of the house every once in a while. Whether it’s just for a walk around the neighborhood or a trip to a local event, caregivers can help facilitate these important outings for seniors who can’t get around completely on their own.
About RetireEASE integrated care
As the premier senior caregiver service in Columbia, SC, our caregivers are passionate about integrated care. We understand the importance of caring not just for people’s physical needs but for their mental and social needs as well.
We love helping older people continue to live full, active lives. You can learn more about our services here.
If you’re looking for high-quality, personalized senior home care in the greater Columbia, SC area, we’d love to talk. You can contact us here.