Technology is exploding, in all areas of our lives. Many of us can hardly recall what it was like to complete certain tasks before today’s technology. At the same time, the internet can cause us to feel overloaded with information. Technology is only useful when it works for our needs as they happen in real life. As part of Older Americans Month, we are looking at some of the ways technology is helping older Americans live more connected, healthier lives. Read our previous post about Electronic Personal Health Records, one of the emerging technologies that is still not widely used but can have great benefits especially for those with chronic conditions and their caregivers.
One of the best resources on this subject is Laurie Orlov’s Aging in Place Technology Watch. Her blog posts go beyond news and updates on the latest technologies to really examine (and critique) how technology is being used, integrated, marketed and applied in daily life for older adults. We have a way to go before much of this technology is used in a meaningful way, but the level of interest and discussion shows the progress in how technology is and will continue to impact aging.
A recent guest post on her blog from Julie Menack discussed the importantance of healthcare & eldercare professionals in facilitating seniors’ (and their caregivers’) use of technology. Family caregivers cited an involved healthcare professional as the top influence on technology selection.
In that spirit, here is a breakdown of some of the current aging in place technologies that our clients and their families have found helpful (in addition to the Personal Medical Record & online caregiver tools mentioned in our previous post):
Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS)-made famous by the “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercials, these alert systems can be a lifesaver, but are growing more sophisticated and therefore useful every day. Now, systems include sensors so that they can sense falls (for times when a person may not be able to press the button or have the awareness, as we have experienced with some of our clients with dementia). Others are tied in with GPS and can be used outside the home, and some include added features like medication reminders and health monitoring.
We have had success with clients using more comprehensive home monitoring systems as well, but as with any of these technologies it is important to analyze benefits for the individual’s needs. One client was able to decrease her hourly care (from 24 hours when we first assessed her) using a monitoring system to alert us (or family) as to any changes or concerns at night so we could ensure that this scenario continued to be safe. She had caregivers with her from 7 AM-10 PM when she needed personal assistance, while the monitoring sufficed for the nighttime hours. She was able to save money and she liked feeling she had more privacy at night. Our care manager demonstrated the system to her to show her that there were no cameras watching her and help her understand how it would work.
Medication Management Systems-we have had clients successfully use electronic pill organizer/alert systems, as well as reminders through a PERS. Additionally, simple “technologies” in packaging and organizing help many clients. Pharmacies may offer pre-packaged, tear-off medication packaging for easy use, and there are a wide variety of pill boxes available. Many of these technologies work best in combination with human assistance, such as a R.N. to fill the medication box and check on how the client is doing, or caregivers and monitoring combining to ensure 24/7 safety.
Technology that facilitates communication & interaction is increasingly popular, already being seen in such stats as Facebook usership, adoption of smart phones and online gaming among 55+ age groups. There are some wonderful Caregiver Coordination Systems and tools that allow families to communicate about what is going on with their elder loved one or a family member going through an illness.
According to a recent study sponsored by United Healthcare and the National Alliance for Caregiving, there are three technologies that families are more readily embracing than others for assistance with providing care for their loved ones: Personal Health Record Tracking (as covered in our previous post), A Medication Support System (as discussed here), and A Caregiver Coordination System (see Caregiver Stress Reduction Tips & Caregiver Resources for more information).
Sign up for our blog posts to receive our future posts on technologies that may help you with eldercare, including more in-depth coverage about Caregiver Coordination Systems and the system we use, Caregiver’s Touch. Contact us today for help determining what technologies and other resources will help you and your elderly loved ones with the best geriatric care management.