Over the next few years the senior care industry will experience rapid changes in technology for caregivers. The rapid changes are due in part to several factors: we are seeing a huge growth in the senior market place due to the larger elderly population, advanced technology is becoming less expensive, and our overburdened and expensive medical system is requiring us to find creative solutions.
Technologies to Assist in Caregiving:
Automated Medication Dispensation and Reminders
Automated medication delivery systems are one futuristic piece of technology that is accessibly priced for current users. One example is the Phillips Lifeline Medication Dispenser. Caregivers pre-fill the medication and input your medication schedule. The system then makes an audible beep when it is time to take a medication. If a patient fails to retrieve the medication at the time of the beep, the system will automatically call the designated caregiver or family member to alert them of the missed dose. CareFamily’s own system also has a free automated medication reminder system. Caregivers can set up the CareFamily system to call individuals with reminders to take their medication.
Currently on the market are small GPS systems that can monitor dementia/Alzheimer’s patients who have wandering tendencies. GPS trackers are placed in devices such as wristwatches and shoes. If the patient goes outside of a preset radius the family or caregiver will be alerted and the patient will be tracked. The wonderful thing about GPS tracking is that it can allow dementia and Alzheimer’s suffers to have a little bit more freedom, because caregivers know that if the wandering urge kicks in they will have a way to track the patient. For more information on these systems, simply Google “GPS tracking dementia”.
Telemedicine is the generic term for delivering health care remotely—when the patient is in one location (for example, at home) and the doctor is in another location (such as, her office). Telemedicine is quickly rising in popularity and ease of delivery. It will allow doctors and nurses to easily monitor patients who wish to remain in their own home as they age. The development of the iPad and other similar tablets allow for inexpensive and easily deliverable telemedicine. For example, a patient can monitor their blood pressure and glucose levels via devices that transmit the data electronically to the doctor’s office. Then patients can use their tablet device to connect with their doctor’s staff. Via video conference the nurse can make further observations on the patient’s well-being and cognitive ability. This daily monitoring of elderly patients will drastically reduce ER and doctor visits: problems can be caught before they require an ER visit and most minor issues that would normally require a doctor visit can be addressed via video conference. This is just one example of how telemedicine can revolutionize senior care.
Smart Home/Smart Devices
A smart home is basically a home whose electrical devices can be controlled remotely. Many smart homes also provide monitoring of inhabitants through sensors. The development of smart homes will offer a great opportunity for seniors who wish to age in place. Through sensors, devices that could pose a danger can be monitored: stove burners or faucets left on for too long could cause a notification to be sent to a caregiver or family member. Motion sensors can read peoples patterns and report issues. If mom is always up and in the bathroom by 8:00 but she hasn’t gotten up by 11:00, the system could notify a caregiver. While this all might remind you of George Jetson, it is quickly becoming a reality. The price of technology is constantly decreasing, and we are seeing smart appliances pop-up all over the place (for instance, remote start cars and garage doors that can be checked and lowered via a phone app). Wired homes and smart appliances will allow elderly individuals to remain independent and in their homes for much longer.