The need for caregiving is growing as our population ages. The number of unpaid caregivers for a projected 117 million Americans is expected to increase to 45 million in 2020. That’s 1 caregiver for every 2 people, even if you add in the 5 million projected paid caregivers.
Can technology make your life easier?
Already, caregivers like you are surfing the Internet to find solutions for their loved ones. In addition, some are using technology to schedule caregiving responsibilities, create lists or spreadsheets to track activities, and manage prescription refills and delivery. Fewer are using technology to shop for special care services or an in-home aide or to read inspirational content, the AARP survey shows.
What do caregivers want?
Technology that ensures home safety is a priority (77.5%) for caregivers, according to the AARP report. Many (72.4%) caregivers want technology that alerts them when their loved one needs urgent care, and 76.4% want technology to check on them.
Caregivers specifically asked for technology that will help coordinate caregiving tasks with other family members, schedule prompts and appointment reminders, and integrate technology to save time and effort.
The AARP report indicates that the issues most caregivers have with today’s technology is that they don’t believe it adequately meets their needs. They’re also concerned about the difficulty of setting it up and cost.
What caregiving technology is available now?
In addition to support groups and information sources available via Internet, technology can help make caregivers’ lives a little easier.
- Personal Emergency Response System (PERS). The technology has advanced beyond the I’ve-fallen-and-I-can’t-get-up stage to permit users to travel with some services.
- Medication reminders include smartphone apps, such as Medisafe Medication Reminder (available for iOS and Android). Or you can place medications in the Tabtime Vibe Vibrating Pill Timer Reminder. Each compartment beeps with a different tone or vibrates when it’s time to take medications.
- Medical history is a breeze with the MyChart app, which not only records your loved one’s medical history and medications, it can also schedule prescription refills and contact their clinic. If an app is not for you, you can get your loved one a medic alert bracelet, which stores data on their medical history and current medications.
- Home monitoring systems can track a person’s daily routine by placing wireless sensors on the refrigerator door or on a pill bottle, for example. If there are any disruptions, remote caregivers can be alerted by phone, email or text.
- GPS trackers can attach to clothing, be worn like jewelry or even be placed in a loved one’s shoes. They not only give an exact location, some can phone, text or email a caregiver when a loved one goes outside a certain area.
- Camera systems set up inside the home monitor the actions of your senior at any time.
- IndependaTV offers an interface that allows the viewer to browse the web, use video chat with friends and family, access simple e-mail, play games, see family photos, follow a daily schedule, and get medication reminders. It has larger fonts and higher contrast.
- For caregivers of people with dementia, the Alzheimer’s Association offers an online training course for under $25.
- The Buddy Coordinated Healthcare System is also for caregivers of loved ones with dementia. PocketBuddy records behavioral and emotional changes observed by the caregiver, which can then be made accessible to family and healthcare professionals.
- CareZone app, available for iOS and Android, offers the integration many caregivers want. It includes a care profile log, shareable task list, medication list (reminders are in progress) and more. Many features are shareable, so you can update friends and family with photos, schedules, and other information.
What caregiving technologies do senior living communities offer?
Senior living communities, such as The Esquiline, already offer free wi-fi, an emergency response system, call buttons, monitors, and an extensive security system for residents in independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing.
Here are some technological safety devices already being utilized in senior living communities:
- Medication-dispensing robots dispense accurate doses so nurses don’t have to measure, resulting in accurate dosages all the time.
- In many skilled nursing and assisted living communities, medical staff record resident reports via technological devices that ask specific questions. Unusual conditions are documented electronically, then collected to give to the patient’s family.
- Persons with dementia wear unobtrusive devices with GPS to track them if they leave the grounds. Some of these devices also automatically lock certain doors when the patient is near or set off an alarm if the person attempts to pass.
- In memory care buildings, residents will set off an alarm connected to their mattress if they attempt to leave their beds during the night.
- Skilled nursing communities attach sensors to pads placed next to a person’s bed so if they fall out of bed or attempt to get out of bed, the staff will know immediately.
- Telemedicine is already being practiced in remote locations. Now, some senior living communities are offering it to reduce visits to the emergency room. Implementers are finding it especially helpful for people with depression.
Advocates for senior living communities rightfully point out that all the technology in the world can’t correct the negative health outcomes resulting from lack of socialization, which is an ongoing problem for people who stay at home.
At The Esquiline, social wellness is one of our core dimensions. We encourage residents to stay active and involved. Choices may include the next Happy Hour, a bus trip to the Botanical Gardens, a volunteer service project or playing cards. Your loved one will find plenty to do with friendly neighbors and caring staff. For more information, contact us online here or call 800-533-6279.