Measuring Quality of Life and Real Life

Measuring Quality of Life and Real Life

Senior Quality of Life

{Read in 4 minutes}  How do you measure quality of life? When a senior receives eye care and a new pair of glasses — how do you measure the extra years of joy, the sheer ability to read, or even the ability to continue driving?

Recently we surveyed clients to see how they were getting along since we last saw them. It was gratifying to learn that nearly 78% reported that their life and budget were now stable. They reported they had enough food to eat; they were feeling socially connected through family, neighbors or friends; and were continuing to take medication according to the doctor’s prescribed dosage. Most reported getting out at least once a week.

The nagging question for me is the smaller number (22%) reporting that they don’t always have enough money for food at the end of the month. Or, knowing from experience how many seniors put on a good front. For example, according to Mr. A:

I’m all right, … getting old of course … I cannot see … I cannot hear … It is hard to go out now that I’m 90 years old … My aide takes me to some appointments … I am very lonely, feel sad … Thank you so much for calling me.”

Correlating quantitative and qualitative data involves measuring quality of life in terms of real life. Our non-profit performance is measured with results-based accountability metrics. The social work staff, however, see quality of life outcomes in more balanced, humanistic terms. What we learn as a team, from periodic surveys, results in the collection of information that helps us fine-tune our programs, look at trends that reveal an increase in behavioral health issues among our senior population, and review how we measure success.

Our regular outreach efforts and volunteer, friendly visitors help us stay connected to seniors in our community who do not have family nearby. We meet people where they are, on their terms, when they are ready. The 22% — those who do not quite meet consistently stable status — may need greater support over a longer period of time.

Time is an important measure when working with seniors. I have learned a great deal from my professional colleagues — and salute them in their caring and professional case management of more than two thousand issues each year. They know that sometimes allowing a client to take their time is part of the process. They are monitoring versus forcing a quick fix. Sometimes waiting; putting just enough support in place when needed is the right response. When measuring quality of life, I am reminded of my mother-in-law Thelma, who at 95, said she missed doing some of the things she used to do. I asked her what she missed the most, and without missing a beat, she said, in her Louisiana drawl: “Standing up.”  To me, that was a great example of the real life version of how to measure quality of life.

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