The world’s population is aging at an unprecedented rate – there’s no question about that. Caregivers, who are available in limited supply, are exhausted and drained. In the case of family caregivers, financial burden and having to juggle between responsibilities is often a concern. The good news though is that we are finding new ways to use technology to tackle some of the problems affecting caregivers today.
Solving the problem of caregiver shortage
The market for home care services and other segments of the senior care industry is growing at a rapid pace. Agencies are finding it increasingly harder to find and retain qualified caregivers. A 2016 survey by CareinHomes Caregivers shows that caregiver shortage is one of the biggest problems caregiver agencies have to deal with. Some organizations are using mobile service technology to improve caregiver retention. Home care givers are usually bouncing from one home to the other, after which they have to report back to the office and make lengthy reports. Technology can connect them to what they need and make it easier to file reports from mobile location. With reduced volume of paperwork to fill, reduced costs and lessened frustration with the job, technology is helping improve caretaker retention.
Use of technology to share resources and collaborate
Various research groups and stakeholders are exploring the use of technological solutions to empower caregivers to share resources, team up and conquer challenges. Some of the technological solutions available for caregiver collaboration include VELA by SeniorLink, and Caregiver Collaboration by Connection. These replace outdated care coordination methods with unified, centralized, HIPAA-secure platforms to allow for enhanced communication, improved efficiency and better care outcomes. These solutions streamline how inter-disciplinary teams coordinate to provide care, and offer an answer to greater engagement among family caregivers and patients.
Use of technology to change the caregiving experience
New caregiving gadgets and apps are popping up each day as the industry tries to keep up with increased demand. Various apps, video monitors, motion sensors, wearables and other technologies are helping make caring for the elderly easier.
Ways in which technology can make caregiving easier and less time-consuming.
- Manage medication
- Ensure home safety
- Supervise medical appointments
- Organize tasks
- Hire help
- Monitor patients – for instance, floor mat alarms can be used to signal when an elderly person suffers from Alzheimer’s gets out of bed
- Shop for groceries and other items
- Arrange transportation and manage finances
- Find new housing (nursing homes, senior communities, assisted living, etc.)
According to a recent study, over 71% of family caregivers are interested in technology that supports their role – from medication-organization apps to wireless blood monitors. But only 7% of caregivers are leveraging technology in their day to day activities.
Where is the disconnect?
Cost is usually a huge barrier. Other impediments are lack of awareness and busy schedules. Many caregivers are too exhausted and have little time to research how technology can meet their needs.
Considerations caregivers should make while choosing technological aids
When looking for technology to make your caregiving routines much more efficient, consider the following.
- Ease of use – it’s important that the technology used in caregiving is simple for everyone involved. It might help to try one item and then upgrade slowly as everyone gets comfortable with the technology. For instance, nursing homes may start with smart thermostat controls, then move to automatic window blinds and remote door locks as they evaluate the financial sensibility of the investment.
- Comfort level – it makes more sense to start with technology that people are familiar with, then slowly move on to new methods and devices.
- Compatibility – if you’re using apps and software platforms to ease problems in caregiving, make sure that they are cross-platform. This way, caregivers will be able to leverage them regardless of whether they are using signing in from a smartphone, a computer, or an iPad.
- Security – safety of information is crucial. Unauthorized persons shouldn’t be able to sign in and extract private information about the caregivers or patients.
There’s need to keep looking for new, more effective technological solutions to solve the problems affecting caregivers. In Japan, nursing homes and adult living centers are already using specialized robots.