The caregiving environment is changing.
People are living longer, and fewer families can afford the consistent support of professional care. On top of that, there simply aren’t enough caregivers available to support everyone.
In 2010, we had about 7 potential caregivers for every “at-risk” individual. By 2030 that ratio is projected to fall drastically to four caregivers to every person in need of help.
According to the Pew Center for Research, there are plenty of people out there willing to stand up and offer the assistance that their friends and loved ones need. Over 40 million caregivers in the US provide unpaid help to a person over the age of 65.
Unfortunately, caregiving comes with many challenges. Recent studies suggest that 80% of people who care for their loved ones feel that their productivity at work suffers, and over a third of employees had to quit their jobs to care for someone full time.
Using Tech to Empower Today’s Caregivers
Technology can never replace the compassion and care that a human being provides.
However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t turn to gadgets and innovations to support the caregivers that need help today.
Innovations like remote monitoring tools, smart speakers and applications are helping today’s caretakers to watch over their loved ones more efficiently today.
Now that we’re uncovering new opportunities in the era of digital transformation, the possibilities are endless. For instance, 5G networks will soon support high-quality HD video conferencing between people and their caretakers.
This means that a person in danger can hit a button and send a camera feed directly to their care provider so that they can deliver the right assistance as quickly as possible.
These camera feeds may even be triggered by IoT sensors that detect when a person remains motionless for extended periods or wearables that highlight when a heart rate rises or drops.
Here are just some of the incredible gadgets available today that can support our nation’s caregivers.
Medication Management Devices
These days, half of all patients over the age of 65 take at least five medications each day.
Automated medication management devices will help caregivers to ensure that their patients take medicines at the right time each day, without human interaction.
For instance, CareZone is a free mobile app that sends a push notification to a person’s phone when it’s time to take a pill. The notification can also include a picture of the pills the person needs to take.
For people who don’t feel comfortable with smartphones, MedMinder is a digital dispenser that flashes when your family member or friend needs to take their pill.
There are even apps available like Reminder Rosie that allow caregivers to record their voice and use personalized messages to remind individuals when to take their pills.
Home Automation Apps
You don’t have to be a tech enthusiast to know about smart assistants these days. AI bots on smart speakers like Amazon Alexa or Google Home are excellent for helping people to control various aspects of their home easily.
If a patient has a hard time moving around or ordering things online, their smart-speaker assistant can do the hard work for them. All they need to do is tell “Alexa” or “Google” what they want.
Nearly a quarter of US households already have their own smart speaker today. These tools can integrate with other smart products, like thermostats and lighting systems, so that your loved one can change the heating or turn the lights off in their bedroom without getting up.
There are even smart cameras that you can install to check in on your loved ones when you’re worried about them.
If you’re nervous that a loved one with dementia might go wandering, you can also set up automated locks with your smartphone system, to keep that person securely in their home during certain times in the day.
This can also reduce security risks for people who might forget to lock their doors and windows at night.
Personal Emergency Response Systems
Personal Emergency Response Systems or “PERS” devices are becoming increasingly intelligent. Medical alert wristbands and pendants can be pressed instantly during an emergency to alert medical professionals when something goes wrong.
Additionally, companies like Great Call are pioneering in the PERS space, creating mobile solutions that work anywhere – not just in the family house.
For instance, if a Lively wearable device from Great Call detects something wrong with your parent’s heart rate, it can let you know about the issue immediately.
The Lively Mobile Plus can also attach to the objects your patient uses the most – such as a favorite chair, and keep you informed of their activity. For instance, if your mom hasn’t made her usual coffee by 11 am, you can check her activity through your smartphone, or send an alert through her easy-to-use smartphone.
Great Call even created their own range of phones specifically designed to be simple for older individuals to understand.
Remote Patient Monitoring and Wearables
Remote patient monitoring technology is similar to “PERS” tech. The difference is that RPM systems allow you to track the health and wellness of a patient at any time, not just when they’re in need.
For instance, if you were caring for a patient with dementia that had a higher risk of suffering from falls, you could fix an RPM sensor to the person’s walker or cane. Those sensors then monitor their location and detect any movement changes.
Caregivers can even track wandering patients through the same technology, with Wi-Fi connections, and GPS tracking. These innovations will be even more impressive in the age of the fast 5G network.
One increasingly common way to supply patients with remote monitoring systems is through wearable devices.
The tech that your loved one can wear on their wrist can monitor everything from heart rate to activity levels these days. You can even send the information gathered straight to your patient’s doctor.
Telehealth and Virtual Doctor Appointments
While it’s essential for people to remain as active as possible as they get older, some patients will struggle to get to doctors’ appointments – particularly when a loved one or caregiver isn’t available to take them where they need to go.
Fortunately, telehealth evolutions have begun to deliver things like virtual appointments and video conferencing to patients around the world.
A virtual visit might be an excellent way to check up with a doctor in the years to come. It eliminates the problem of having to travel to a doctor’s office. What’s more, it means that vulnerable people don’t have to sit in a waiting room with sick individuals that may pass on the infection.
Doctors can monitor patient health through heart-rate systems, glucose monitors and more that send information to the cloud. Some experts are even experimenting with robots that will be able to perform basic surgeries at a distance.
Helping Today’s Caregivers
The caregivers responsible for supporting those in need throughout the world today are selfless and generous individuals. However, they’re only human, and can easily burn out when they push themselves too far.
Technology doesn’t have to undermine the importance of human beings in healthcare. The right tools can make a care provider’s job much more manageable.
With apps and innovations, people will be able to monitor and support patients – even from a distance.
We’re moving forward into an age where the technology may be the number one medical assistant.
Ashley Wilson is a freelance writer interested in business, marketing, and tech topics. She has been known to reference Harry Potter quotes in casual conversation and enjoys baking homemade treats for her husband and their two felines, Lady and Gaga. You can get in touch with Ashley via Twitter – @ashleygwilson
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