As America ages, older adults will soon outnumber young adults for the first time in the country's history. At that point, our caregiving model will be flipped on its head. There simply won't be enough people to take care of the senior population.
A paradigm shift will need to take place in order to care for a larger population of seniors, with a smaller number of caregivers available. New technology has the ability to dramatically increase the number of caregiving needs that can be met and at a much more affordable cost than today;s caregiving model.
Here are some of the rapidly evolving technologies that are helping fill the caregiving needs of seniors.
Medical Alert Systems
Medical alert systems have made significant advancements in the last few years. They now incorporate GPS, 2 way voice pendants, automatic fall detection, cellular and smartwatch technology, and activity tracking for family caregivers.
If someone doesn't leave their home, or is typically accompanied when doing so, then an in-home medical alert system is all they'll need. In-home systems can now connect to medical alert monitoring centers via landline or cellular connection (for cord cutters) and come with fall detection as well. Some companies also offer daily check-ins.
On-The-Go Systems With GPS
If a senior is more mobile and leaves their home for yard work, walks and activities on their own, an on the go medical alert system can protect them no matter where they are. Mobile medical alert systems are equipped with GPS so its wearer can be located by family members or emergency responders and the pendent has 2 way voice so seniors can speak to the monitoring center.
Digital Voice Assistants
The introduction of digital voice assistants like Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri and Google Home, hold tremendous promise for seniors with mobility, vision and memory issues. With simple voice commands, and no need to press a button, digital voice assistants can do things via smart technology that could only be dreamed of 10 years ago. Here are some of the applications:
- Make phone calls by voice command
- Play your favorite songs
- Turn the TV on and change channels
- Turn the radio on and change channels
- Read an audio book
- Schedule appointment reminders
- Schedule medication reminders
- Turn the lights on and off
- Turn the heat up or down
- Call for an Uber driver to pick you up
- Order groceries for delivery
- Answer the front door via intercom
Medication Organizers, Reminders & Dispensers
With the average senior taking at least 4 different medications, and many taking double that, prescription adherance and compliance are some of the biggest caregiver concerns. Medication management is one of the leading reasons seniors move into managed care facilities.
However, new technologies are making it easier for seniors to take the right medications, in the right dose at the right time - every time. Whether it's a simple pill organizer, a medication reminder alarm or an automated pill dispenser that is pre-sorted, dispenses medications and notifies caregivers of missed medications and re-fills, more and more caregiver responsibilities are being replaced by automation.
Challenges with activities of daily living (ADL) are another primary responsibility of caregivers. Examples of activities of daily living are bathing, showering, toileting, hygiene, cooking, eating, dressing etc...
While technology can't help with all ADL needs, there are many that are making it easier for seniors to take care of themselves without the need for a caregiver. Here are just a few:
- Motion sensored water taps
- Automated bidet toilets
- Motion sensored doors
- Robotic vacuum cleaners (Roomba)
- Automated video doorbells (Ring)
- Walk-in tubs
- Grab bars
- Stair lift
- Wheelchair lift
- Raised toilet seats
- Assistive seating devices (helps people get up)
The need for patients to meet their doctors in person for regular check-ups, monitoring and diagnoses has long been a one of the most difficult tasks of caregivers and a primary reason for seniors to throw in the towel on living independently.
However, new technology now allows things like blood pressure, blood sugar, oxygen levels and heart rate to be monitored remotely. Moreover, some diagnoses can be made via video or pictures, without the need for a patient / doctor visit in person - a blessing for those with mobility or transport challenges.