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What Should I Know About Caregiving Technology?

User Category: TechnologyOn: June 17, 2013

This post first appeared on the Family Caregiver Blog With all the new technological advancements that seem to be coming out everyday for older adults, trying to keep up with the changes can be inundating and confusing, especially if you are not tech-savvy. As a result, I spoke with Melody Wilding, Director of Communications at eCaring, and asked her some questions to gain a better understanding of the latest “buzz” surrounding technological devices geared towards helping family caregivers and the individuals they care for.  Ms. Valentin: What is Caregiving technology?  Ms. Wilding: Caregiving technology is any type of innovative program or device that aims to improve the caregiving experience. The tool or device can be directly related to improving medical care and/or increasing a caregiver's social connectedness and sense of community. There are a few basic categories that most caregiving technologies fit into - medical devices and assistive technology, Cloud-based caregiving tools, and social and community tools. Ms. Valentin: How could caregiving technology enhance a caregiver's situation? Ms. Wilding: While a loved one may spend a few hours in the hospital or at a physician’s office, the majority of his or her time is spent at home. Until now, however, the home environment has essentially been a “black box” in the home health care continuum due to the lack of reliable mechanisms for providing actionable, real-time care information from the home. This gap often leads to a multitude of unfortunate consequences like unplanned hospitalizations. In-home care management and monitoring technologies are breaking open this “black box” and fundamentally transforming the ability to monitor a person’s care at home. One example of in-home care management is the the cloud-based care management system, eCaring, which allows home care aides, family caregivers, and patients themselves to enter enormous amounts of real-time health care data. Important data like medication intake, vital signs, daily routines and mental state, are able to be tracked regardless of a user’s computer skills or health care literacy. Ms. Valentin: What are some other common devices used and how can they be beneficial? Ms. Wilding: In addition to real-time, round-the-clock cloud-based platforms, medical devices are another popular area of caregiving technology. Medical devices like automatic medication and pill dispensers,  electronic blood glucose monitors and personal emergency response systems (PERS) tend to be useful tools for many family caregivers. When caring for an older adult, chances are family caregivers are trying to manage information between a dizzying numbers of parties. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, there are over 43.5 million adults providing care to someone 50 years or older in the United States. Now more than ever, technology is becoming an indispensable tool for managing and coordinating care. The benefits of these tools are far-reaching and have major implications for improving quality of life for older adults and their caregivers. The National Alliance for Caregiving reports that the most important technological benefits reported by caregivers are saving time (77%), caregiving logistically made easier (76%), making the care recipient feel safer (75%), increasing their feelings of being effective (74%), and reducing stress (74%). Whether you live around the block or across the country, no one can be with his/her loved one 24 hours a day. Yet families should know, at all times, whether their loved one is eating well, sleeping properly, taking their medications, etc. Technology can help individuals, families and their health care providers respond immediately and help to keep small problems from becoming big ones. Do you have any questions about caregiving technology? Or information about available products you, as a family caregiver, have used and want to share with other family caregivers? If so, please share them below.