By Mary Kay Rizzolo, CQL President and CEO
The concept of outcomes is universal. The definition of them is very personal. Through both formal and informal means, we all identify and prioritize what really matters to us. We then work to achieve those unique outcomes.
Outcomes are also ageless. Yes, they shift and evolve as we get older, but the ideals are consistent. How are we spending our day? Who are we spending it with? What decisions are we making along the way? Are those decisions understood and respected? How can we pursue our dreams? Are there people who can support us in that pursuit? The list goes on.
Personal Outcome Measures® were developed decades ago, with this universal framework in mind. Through more than 20 years of utilizing this tried and true methodology for the identification, analysis and achievement of outcomes, we find that outcomes are in fact, by and large, universal across the lifespan.
As Older Americans Month wraps up this May, we see this demonstrated in the CQL Online Data Tool. Looking at research involving older adults (65 and older) with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the data doesn’t draw a distinct difference in the presence of outcomes based on age.
For example, 2015/2016 data shows us that 84.8% of those under the age of 65 report that they feel safe, and 80.2% of older adults over the age of 65 believe that they are safe. In regards to ‘People Choose Where and With Whom They Live’ there is only a 2.5% difference in the presence of the outcome for people younger than 65 compared to those older than 65, at 28.5% and 26% respectively. In another outcome, 57.9% of people under 65 state that they feel respected, while 61.1% of people over 65 state the same thing.
So what does this all mean? The concept is universal, the definition is personal and the achievement of outcomes are almost ageless – but – the application of Personal Outcome Measures® does involve slight variations to accommodate the shifting and evolution of people at different stages in life.
Variations Involving Three Indicators
By Becky Hansen
As noted above, the Personal Outcome Measures® apply to all people at all phases of life. As people age, their definition of quality as it relates to the outcome may shift. Below we examine a few of the variations that should be kept at the forefront of exploring outcomes when working with older adults.
Natural Support Networks
For some, natural support networks are made up of lifelong friends and family. It is important to recognize that as a person ages, it is common for their natural support system to change. It is common for older adults to lose people who they care about as they age. It is important to ensure that people have the opportunity to grieve as they wish and that they are afforded opportunities to create connections with others as they desire. Natural support networks can also be disrupted when older adults are faced with moving into a new environment to receive more care and support. It is essential to support older adults in maintaining the relationships that matter most to them, even when a move takes place. Maintaining relationships promotes a higher overall quality of life.
As we progress through each stage of life, health remains a core focus. For older adults, it is essential to focus on learning about the person’s preferences, desires and choices related to healthcare. Older adults face an increased risk for serious and terminal health concerns. When working with people who are in the end stage of their life, it is important to gain a deep understanding of how health supports can best facilitate their outcomes. There are many options for traditional, palliative and holistic health care that should be explored and offered.
The Personal Outcome Measures® assessment specifically references work as a quality indicator. This indicator also applies to how a person spends their day, including retirement activities. The key concept under this indicator is that people have education, experience and exposure to choices in how they spend their day. It is essential to well-being to feel that your life has meaning and purpose. Many older adults find meaning through service to others, connecting with others, learning new skills, honing skills or contributing to their communities. Others who have reached retirement age choose to embrace a slower paced schedule and life. Retirement can be a time of savoring small moments and relaxation, or a time of renewed inspiration and activity. Personal Outcome Measures® do not dictate which is correct, rather, they encourage us to learn and explore which is right for each person.
It’s crucial to understand and appreciate how lives change across the lifespan, and proactively adapt supports to accommodate that evolution. The Personal Outcome Measures® were intentionally created to have this universal application in mind. CQL has also developed support materials to better understand this shift.
With Older Americans Month coming to a close, we should not only be aware of, but also implement the slight variations needed in our Personal Outcome Measures® interviews, so this discovery process is fruitful for all ages.