Hungry? You can order some pizza and pay for it online. Need to pay your bills? You don’t have to go to the bank or to the billing company to do it. You can either do it online on your desktop or on your smartphone. Need to buy a gift for your nephew whose birthday is this weekend? No need to go out during your lunch break to buy a gift. Just order online and you can have it delivered at your door step.
It’s amazing how much technology has advanced and how much impact it makes in your life. Whatever industry you are in, technology is there to the rescue. How about for the caregiving industry? Can it help the elderly with their difficulties – like walking and eating? Can it help caregivers provide better care for their patients?
The answer to these to questions is simple. It’s a big YES!
this essay was co-written with Christina Scannapiego
Did your grandmother ever forget that she had cookies baking in the oven? If this has happened once, you will likely be worried about it happening again. The good thing is there are now smart ovens that have an auto shut off feature, so you will not have to worry about the oven being left on accidentally. There is also a device called Cookstop that you can attach to your oven. It is designed to detect motion around the stove and it will also switch the oven off after a period of time that it detects no activity.
Technology also plays a big role in continuous cognitive stimulation to help memory problems. There are laptop, tablet or phone applications that can be used by the elderly, such as memory games or games that target brain activity. There are also some applications that can emulate the elderly’s hobbies that he or she enjoyed in her youth like gardening, playing instruments and dancing. There’s even a device that’s made especially for elder users - Seniorama-Pointer.
The benefits of laptops, tablets and other similar devices, doesn’t end there. By installing software like Skype and social media apps like Facebook, the patient can maintain communication with his or her loved ones, especially those who live far and don’t get to visit often.
There are also pill dispensers that can be programmed to dispense pills at any time of the day. This is helpful for those who forget their medication or take the wrong medicine at the wrong time of the day. This is extremely useful since simple mistakes like these can endanger our loved one’s health. There are even some that send out a notification if the pills are almost gone or if the scheduled pills were not taken.
When it comes to healthcare providers, there a plenty of ways that the caregiver can easily send electronic medical records (EMR) to the patient’s physician. EMRs store the patient’s records – from allergies to health history to medication, more info on EMR systems here.
The same goes for the ease at which physicians can send prescriptions to al elderly patient’s caregiver. Telehealth is also useful for long-distance caregiving especially if the patient has an informal caregiver.
There also some applications that are specifically made for caregivers and have features like a calendar, to do list, and some note taking tools.
Applications like this make it easy to share the load of taking care of the elderly since everyone is informed of what needs to be done and what has been done.
For family members that want to track their loved ones’ condition from afar, there’s home health monitoring that can deliver information anytime of the day. You’d never have to wonder if your mom has eaten dinner yet or if your dad has taken his pills because everything is accessible, just a few clicks away.
Home monitoring can also provide real-time videos of the patient’s bedroom, bathroom or other house areas and give you the ability to turn on or turn off the lights remotely.
There are specialized home monitoring systems that can help patients who dislike going to the hospital and taking laboratory tests. Some features that you can find include a weighing scale, glucometer and blood pressure monitor. There’s also the pulse oximeter which determines the patient’s blood oxygen saturation level.
If you’re worried about a patient who has either Alzheimer’s disease or dementia wandering off and getting lost, there are GPS devices that can notify you when the patient has gone outside a set area. It can also provide you with the exact location of the patient with a call.
Caregivers also don’t have to be with the patient round the clock anymore since advanced personal emergency response systems (PERS) have been developed. This device can either be in the form of a necklace or bracelet and has a button that the patient can press in case of an emergency.
Have you heard of smart diapers? It checks if the patient is well hydrated and if there are any infections of the urinary tract. All the caregiver has to do is to scan the diaper’s code in the front and the data is retrieved in just a few seconds. This is especially useful for patients who dislike drinking water regularly or may forget to do so.
There are also sensors that can detect if the elderly had an accident and has fallen to the floor. These can also detect the orientation and measure the patient’s impact on the floor surface. Another useful device for many is the Health-e-Chair; which has biosensors that can measure vital signs such as temperature, blood pressure, heart rate and even lung activity.
However, there are some people, especially the elderly, who are not completely comfortable with technology and are uncomfortable using it because they feel that they are not well equipped to use it. So to make it easier for them, companies are making equipment for the elderly with larger buttons and the letters that are more noticeable and easier to read.
The advancements in technology has made caregiving easier, more efficient and more reliable by providing tools and equipment that have made the ease of sharing and retrieval of data possible. Your loved ones can be safer and more secure using some of these devices and services; aside from the peace of mind you get from knowing that your loved ones are OK and well taken care of.
More and more people are opting to care for their loved ones themselves because of the high cost of relying on private institutions. Compared to how things were in the past, family caregiving is easier now and less stressful. For basic concerns, a quick call to the patient’s physician is often enough.
With the number of patients needing care on the rise and the number of caregivers going down, technology can be the bridge that helps mitigate this vast difference. The elderly can be independent longer and caregivers’ workloads are lighter and easier to handle. We can only expect it to get better as technology advances and more and more caregiving aids are developed. The future of caregiving is bright and no longer as bleak as it was once before in years past.