You may not be ready for a robot caregiver – believe it or not they exist – but a growing number of technologies are available today to help older adults maintain their health, manage chronic conditions, and live safely and successfully in their own homes.
This is great news!
Because if you’re like most people, you’d rather stay put and never have to call a nursing home “home.” Technology tools also make life a little easier for family caregivers, trying to keep all the balls in the air.
So what can technology do to lighten the load?
Fortunately, there is tremendous interest on the part of innovators and investors in developing tools and technologies to serve the needs of older adults.
Here are a few examples of what we can look forward to, featured recently in The Week:
A “smart dresser” has new meaning these days. Everything from shoes to shirts can have embedded smart technology – shoes with vibrating insoles to improve balance and prevent falls, shirts with heart monitors, and even socks smart enough to detect diabetic complications.
Not just your clothes, but your entire home can become smarter with technology.
• Forgot to turn off the downstairs lights? No worries – they’re programmed to turn off automatically.
• Feeling too cool? Just say, “Turn the house temperature to 70 degrees.”
• Forgot to put the pendant on? A monitoring system can detect if you fell even if you aren’t wearing your emergency response device.
It’s hard enough remembering to take the right meds at the right times on a normal day. Then everything changes after a trip to the hospital. This typically weak link in the system – transitions between care settings – has caused many older adults to return to the hospital instead of recuperating comfortably at home.
How can technology help? One company is testing a digestible “smart pill” that is paired with a smartphone app. The app knows when the pill was taken (or if it wasn’t taken). Smart Band-Aid-like strips can be programmed to monitor a person’s vital signs and administer medication transdermally.
One of the hardest days for older adults is the day they have to give up the car keys. The loss of independence is profound. Imagine gaining back that independence with a self-driving car. By 2020, there could be 10 million self-driving cars on the road – that’s just four years from now! While we’re waiting for them, there’s always Uber. Download the app, and get a ride in minutes.
Facebook is great, but FaceTime and Skype are even better, helping all of us stay connected – visually, in real-time, from anywhere in the world. Even if you’re house-bound, you can visit with the grandkids, or great-grandkids virtually, using a computer or smartphone.
Help for Family Caregivers – Innovators, are you listening?
Project Catalyst surveyed a nationally representative sample of America’s 40 million family caregivers to understand their most pressing needs. Caregivers were asked to rate their interest in using technology to support a range
of caregiving tasks. Here are the top 10 tasks identified by respondents:
– Rx refill and pickup
– Making and supervising medical appointments
– Assessing health needs and conditions
– Ensuring home safety
– Monitoring Rx adherance
– Checking in on care recipient
– Managing their own stress and emotional challenges
– Grocery and other shopping
– Transportation – providing and arranging
– Managing finances
Technology is beginning to make an impact in some of these areas, as we have seen. In the not-too-distant future, technology may be essential to help close the gap between older adults needing help and those available to care for them.
By 2020, Project Catalyst reports that 117 million Americans will need assistance, with only 50 million caregivers available to provide care.
We have seen technology transform many aspects of our lives, offering convenience for everything from booking travel to buying books. We look forward to watching how technology will help older adults remain independent, and support family caregivers as they provide services that would otherwise cost the system nearly $500 billion a year.
Family Caregivers – Yes, You Can Take a Vacation!