Technology Tools for Family Caregivers

tech for caregivers

Caregiving for the elderly can be a difficult job. Caregiver burnout – which can include emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion – is a very real problem. A report by AARP in conjunction with the National Alliance for Caregiving found that 36% of family caregivers describe their situation as “highly stressful.” About 42% of family caregivers suffer from depression, mood swings, and resentment. Besides the mental and emotional effects, there are physical issues as well, such as a 23% increase in stress hormones and 15% lower immune system response, which makes family caregivers more likely to develop serious health issues[1].

Given the toll caregiving can take, it’s important to find every possible way to make the job easier. Fortunately, technology offers some solutions that can give caregivers a bit of relief.

Top Technology Tools to Help Family Caregivers

Some tools for caregiving show great potential to make life easier, for both the caregiver and their loved one. The National Alliance for Caregiving teamed up with UnitedHealthcare to ask 1,000 caregivers what they thought about emerging technology and how it could help them. Here are some promising options:

·         Health Record Tracking. Though this can take a few forms, the most commonly known is the health system patient portal. A person’s medical history, summary of visits to the physician or hospital, test results, surgical notes, symptoms and dates they were reported, medications taken and the dosages, and so much more goes into the portal. This puts all the important medical information right there at your fingertips.

·         Coordinating Care Systems. If caregiving is truly a family affair, make it easier to schedule shifts, breaks, and more among those who are stepping up to help. Friends and family can log into the system to volunteer their time on certain days. The system can list a variety of necessary events, such as doctor appointments that your loved one might need help getting to. Lotsa Helping Hands is an excellent example of a coordinating care system.  

·         Medication Systems. As we get older, health problems tend to pile up. Given that 75% of seniors aged 65 and older live with at least one chronic health condition[2], it makes sense that medications start to pile up too. Keeping track of them can quickly become confusing. There is also a true sense of urgency to keep it all straight, as mixing up medications could have potentially devastating results. Medication systems can offer everything from reminders to take medication to dispensing pills at the appropriate time. Alert1 Medical Alert Systems offers a great option with its Medication Reminder, Dispenser, and Organizer.

·         Personal Emergency Response System. Also known as PERS, these systems include medical alert devices, such as medical alert pendants, watches, bracelets or wristbands that can send an alert to trained professionals when an emergency or accident occurs. The emergency response systems available through Alert1 work by pressing a button that sends an alert to our emergency monitoring center. Our professionals respond, thoroughly assess the situation and contact those in a pre-determined Circle of Care. If the situation is dire, they will contact emergency services and direct them to the appropriate location. They will then stay on the line until help arrives. Medical alert systems with fall detection provide even more peace of mind, as you know that your loved one can be protected even if they suffer a fall and cannot press the button to reach out for help in the aftermath.

·         GPS trackers. Stand-alone GPS trackers can be worn by a person to help pinpoint their exact location. They can be worn as a bracelet or necklace, or simply attached to clothing or a belt. This provides excellent peace of mind, especially for those family caregivers who are handling a loved one who wanders. Some of these trackers can be set to alert you if your loved one leaves a set geographical area, such as wandering out of their neighborhood block. Others are designed to send valuable information in the event of emergency; for example, a medical alert watch with GPS technology can pinpoint exactly where the wearer is so that emergency services can get to them as soon as possible in the event of an emergency.

·         Motion sensing technology. The benefits of this technology are crystal clear: you can know when your loved one is moving about by what a smartphone or online app tells you about their motion throughout the home or outside. For instance, a motion sensing camera in the kitchen can alert you when your loved one enters the kitchen for a snack, or the system can send alerts if it hasn’t encountered your loved one in a certain period of time. Some of these systems can even tie into the thermostat, lighting, and more to help ensure those in the home are as safe as possible when you aren’t around (and to make life much easier for you when you are).

·         Smart home features. These features don’t have to be elaborate. And in fact, you might be using some of them already. The popular programmable thermostat, which lowers or raises the temperature on a pre-set schedule, is quite common in homes these days. Other smart systems will turn lights on and off automatically when the ambient light changes or on a pre-set schedule, lock the door when a loved one is safely inside the home, send alerts to a mobile app when a certain door has been opened, and so much more.

·         Online support groups. One of the most important aspects of family caregiving is support. You need the strong support of friends and family while you make personal sacrifices out of love for another. Online support groups are filled with family caregivers who need a place to vent, gather advice, find new ways of doing things, and bond with others in the same situation. This article from AARP dives deep into the variety of online support groups out there, complete with links that take you to groups that cater to very specific caregiving needs.

How to Choose the Right Caregiving Tools for You

Sometimes all the options can be overwhelming. Therefore, it’s important to narrow down those options based on what you really need and value in your technological tools. These questions suggested by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) can help you choose the tech that works for you and your loved one:

·         Does it simplify my caregiving? If it’s something that takes more time and energy than what you want to devote to it, then it’s probably not simplifying anything.

·         Does it actually meet my needs? Does this streamline your life and make caring for your loved one easier? Or does it simply add another layer to already complicated care?

·         Is it user-friendly? You want technology that is straight-forward, simple, and very easy to handle. A medical alert device is an excellent example of affordable technology that is incredibly easy to use.

·         Is it worth the money? Many believe that technology is always expensive, but that’s definitely not the case. At Alert1, you can obtain a medical alarm for less than $20 per month. These senior life-saving systems cost less than one latte a week!

·         Is it safe to rely on? You want tried-and-true technology that will work every time, from a company that is well-established.

·         Is it recommended? Ask your loved one’s physician what they might recommend for your caregiving needs, and turn to your online support groups to ask questions about real-world use.

There’s no doubt that being a caregiver is a serious responsibility but one that brings a wealth of rewards in peace of mind, family connections and a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Let technology make your life easier by helping you care for your loved one.

Alert1 wishes you peace of mind and heart in your caregiver journey!