High-Tech Solutions and In-Home Care: A Winning Combination
Older Adults, Newer Technology
Despite the cliché that older adults are afraid of new technical developments, many seniors have eagerly embraced today’s high-tech gadgets. Active video games that were first designed for teens caught on fast with the over-65 population. Tablet computers such as the iPad are a big hit with people with arthritis, who find it easier to tap and swipe the glass surface than to use a keyboard. Smartphones with voice commands are a natural choice for older eyes.
Using technology to support senior well-being is nothing new. Assistive devices for people with mobility challenges have evolved from canes to walkers to ever-more-ingenious wheelchair designs. People living with sensory impairment use hearing aids, glasses, magnifiers and TV closed captioning. Homes are modified with wheelchair ramps, grab bars and accessible kitchen and bathroom fixtures.
Not so long ago, seniors who needed help with the activities of daily living had little choice but to move to a nursing home. But nursing homes now serve a population with medically complex care needs. Today, according to the AARP, 90 percent of people over age 65 wish to remain in their own homes, even if they are living with health and mobility challenges. Developers are responding with increasingly sophisticated "gerotechnology" solutions to help seniors remain safe and healthy in their own homes.
These "silver care" solutions include:
Safety monitoring in the home. Pendant or bracelet-type personal emergency response systems have for some time provided peace of mind for seniors who fear a fall injury or medical emergency. GPS devices in ID bracelets and watches, even in shoes, now help keep track of the whereabouts of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Sensor systems installed in the home can track a senior’s activity during the day and automatically send an alert if something is amiss, such as a fall, unexpected inactivity, or a change of behavior that might signal a health problem. According to University of Missouri researchers, "Motion sensor networks installed in seniors’ homes can detect changes in behavior and physical activity, including walking and sleeping patterns. Early identification of these changes can prompt healthcare interventions that can delay or prevent serious health events."
Health and wellness monitoring. "Telehealth" technologies allow seniors to monitor their day-to-day health status, keeping track of blood pressure, weight, heart activity, blood sugar, medication compliance and general well-being, with results automatically sent to the person’s doctor or other healthcare provider. This allows for quick detection of a change of health condition.
Electronic health records. When a patient has a single health record, securely available online, this helps streamline care and allows coordination of care among providers. Keeping everyone on the same page eliminates the need for duplicate tests, helps avoid drug interactions and lowers healthcare costs.
Enhanced communication technologies. Senior-friendly smartphones, computers with accessibility features, Skype, webcams and social networking sites help seniors keep in touch with family, friends and the world. "Virtual senior centers" encourage social interaction and provide classes and mental stimulation. Online fitness programs, brain exercise software products and even recreational Web surfing all have been demonstrated to protect cognitive health.
These technologies preserve senior independence and safety at home and save money for families and our healthcare system.
The Role of In-Home Care
Since the advent of personal computers, the phrase "high tech meets high touch" has been used to describe the interplay between technology and human interaction. When it comes to caring for our seniors at home, this phrase is especially apt.
For many families, professional in-home care has long been the perfect support solution to help older loved ones live safely at home. Where do high-tech senior care technologies fit in? Will robots replace human caregivers? Home care agencies report that, on the contrary, high-tech senior care technologies are a perfect fit along with in-home care—a winning combination to help seniors live independently as long as possible, even when they are dealing with health challenges.
Complementing high-tech solutions, in-home care provides the human touch. No technology can take the place of the presence of another person. For many seniors, the companionship provided by in-home care is an antidote to loneliness and depression. Caregivers not only spend time with senior clients in the home, but also help them remain active in the community. In-home caregivers provide:
- Personal care, including bathing, grooming, dressing, incontinence care and other personal hygiene support
- House cleaning, laundry, removing clutter and other housekeeping tasks
- Transportation to medical appointments, social events or the person’s faith community
- Shopping for groceries, planning and preparing nutritious meals
- Skilled nursing care as allowed by law
- Assistance and support for using technology. An in-home care agency can work with the family, healthcare professionals and technology provider to ensure that senior clients are comfortable with home technologies and using them properly.
In-home caregivers also provide respite and reassurance for family caregivers. The most advanced technology cannot replace the eyes, ears and helping hands of a skilled, knowledgeable and caring human being. Families report that knowing a caregiver is present—from several hours a week to 24 hours a day—provides the best assurance of peace of mind.
As Technologies Evolve, Home Care Is There to Help
It is not possible for every senior to age in place, but the alliance between human and technical assistance continues to make senior independence feasible for more and more families. The high tech and home care combination can make care more affordable, with hours of skilled nursing replaced by less costly companion and personal care. Each new development in high-tech senior care has proven to be a natural fit with the services provided by in-home care.
For information on topics related to home care and healthcare, visit our Home Care and Healthcare Advocacy group on LinkedIn.
Right at Home, Inc. is a national organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for those we serve. We fulfill that mission through a dedicated network of locally owned, franchised providers of in-home care services.