A quick view on technologies for family caregivers
Written by Kathy Kelly, FCA executive director
With more than 170 technology accelerator programs in the United States, is it any wonder that professionals and consumers seem overwhelmed with new technology products and services? Media stories, tech demonstrations and presentations at conferences tout the latest idea as the perfect solution for a single older adult living alone or a family caregiver. But when looking up that new product six or 12 months later, one finds it has disappeared because it failed to find an audience or was bought by another company. How to keep up with the trends and recommend technologies to older adults or caregivers?
Let’s start with keeping up with the technologies.
Here are two of the best sites and news feeds that can keep you up to date with the latest in technology products and changes in the space for older adults:
- Aging in Place Technology Watch features blog posts written by Laurie Orlov, and is a must-read to keep up with tech. Never shy with her opinions, Orlov combines reporting with a nuanced view of developments in the aging services space.
- Aging2.0 offers a monthly newsletter of curated articles and updates about technology and aging, in addition to conference and competition events across the country.
There are more than 40,000 apps for use by older adults and family caregivers. Many have multiple functions; others just do one thing well. Generally they fall under four basic categories: home environment; health monitoring; community engagement; and caregiving. Below are listed a few tested suggestions of assistance to family caregivers.
The following apps have been around for a while and offer secure communications to family and friends involved with providing short- or long-term care: Lotsa Helping Hands and CaringBridge will cut the endless email threads and have calendar functions for task scheduling.
There has been significant investment in home-sensor technologies and personal emergency response systems—two areas where there has been uptake by older adults and family caregivers. There are hundreds of products and service plans. Go to techenhancedlife.com and look at two guides on Medical Alert Systems and Caring from Afar: Guide to Home Sensor Systems. They provide overviews on products and help with selecting the best product and services for specific care situations.
Here are a handful of companies offering such products and services:
- Philips personal health programs and Health watch
- GreatCall has incorporated Lively sensor technology
- SentinelCare incorporates personal and sensor data with alerts to family caregivers
For family caregivers looking for in-home help, several companies have created online access to personal care aides who are employees of the companies:
Two suggested online services in which aides are independent contractors:
Finally, keep an eye out for voice-activated apps that run through the Amazon Echo. Functions related to the home environment, entertainment and medication reminders are added continually for use in this product, making it a potential hub for technologies in the home. And finally, for those working with low-income older adults, or with those who may not like all things technology, take a look at Pinterest for Product Hacks for Seniors. Sometimes new and shiny is not the answer.
[Reprinted with permission from Aging Today, newspaper of the American Society on Aging, [volume 37, issue 6, page numbers 1–2] Copyright © 2016, American Society on Aging, San Francisco, California. www.asaging.org.]