By John Schall, Chief Executive Officer of Caregiver Action Network (CaregiverAction.org)
Family caregiving can be like having a full-time job. Caregivers manage doctor appointments, provide transportation, make sure medications are taken on time, and keep the home going – to name just a few of the vital tasks that they perform on a daily basis. This can feel overwhelming. To do all this, caregivers sometimes need help. Fortunately, technology can make life a bit easier for family caregivers, and can help keep loved ones safe and healthy. What’s more, these services can help caregivers stay on top of it all and enable them to restore some balance to their lives.
America’s 90 million family caregivers fulfill so many roles, but it’s impossible for them to do everything. Since they can’t be there every minute, caregivers often worry about their loved one’s safety. Caregiving technology now offers much more than just medication trackers and appointment calendars. There are tons of apps, devices, and tools that can help caregivers do almost everything from A to Z: monitor vital signs such as blood pressure; design healthy eating plans; or store medical records all in one convenient place.
It’s important for caregivers to stay connected and involved. Patients and caregivers who are engaged in their own care have fewer health problems, medical errors, and hospital re-admissions. Healthcare providers should make their patients and their caregivers aware that there are online and smartphone resources out there to help them. This benefits everyone. A majority of caregivers reported online resources are helpful to their ability to provide care; and most said that online resources have been helpful to their ability to cope with the stress of being a caregiver.
Medication management is one of the most important tasks any family caregiver handles, and where safety is paramount. Medication management tools offer an easy, safe way to make managing medications easier. Solutions run from low-tech pillboxes marked with the days of the week, to automated models that beep and open as a reminder to take medication. Smartphone apps offer gentle reminders, and some can even be linked to a vibrating watch alarm.
Thanks to GPS, new technologies have been developed that can be used to keep tabs on a loved one. These small devices are a great option for keeping track of a loved one with Alzheimer’s. Trackers can send location data to family caregivers, nursing home staff, or even alert emergency services in order to get them home safely and quickly.
And there are technologies that can help a caregiver monitor their loved one at home. These include door and exit sensors, carbon monoxide and flood detectors, bed, door, and window sensors, touchpad key locks, and high temperature detectors. There is even an exciting new app that utilizes voice recognition artificial intelligence to place a two-minute care check-up call every day – which can allow aging-in-place seniors to be healthier, safer, and more independent. Video monitoring technology can also be useful when a caregiver wants to check in on their loved one.
Caregivers are technologically literate, comfortable using an assortment of devices, and, in many cases, already use technology in their caregiving. Caregiver Action Network has a brand new resource for caregivers looking to learn about technology and how it can help them in their daily lives. iCAN Tech is specifically designed to help family caregivers sort through the new and sometimes intimidating world of high-tech products and services in a way that makes sense for family caregivers.
The world of technology is in a state of perpetual motion – and that’s a good thing because technology can help caregivers and patients stay safe and healthy! Of course, there is no one solution to caregiving. Nor is there any one technology that can meet all caregiving needs. But the first step is to look. More likely than not, there is an app out there for your patients!
John A. Schall, M.P.P. (Chief Executive Officer, Caregiver Action Network)
John Schall is a public policy and communications professional with more than 30 years of noted expertise in a wide range of policy fields, including healthcare, labor, education, economic development, taxation, and budget policy. He became Chief Executive Officer of the Caregiver Action Network (the National Family Caregivers Association) in June 2012. Prior to CAN, Mr. Schall handled government relations for several companies and organizations.
John also brings a wealth of experience in senior federal government positions, including serving as former Sen. Bob Dole’s chief budget advisor; chief of staff of the U.S. Department of Labor in the early 1990s; and as deputy of the White House Domestic Policy Council under President George H.W. Bush. He holds a Master of Public Policy degree from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and is a graduate of the University of Michigan.