Technology changes everything and that includes caregiving. Over the next ten years, it promises to make caregiving easier and improve the ability to care for loved ones. Whether you’re a dementia caregiver or long-distance caregiver, there are more and more resources to help with caregiving every day. The human touch will also be needed to avoid isolation and depression and those who look into the future have a good idea of how that can improve too.
Advances that support caregivers are essential as the demographics of the United States change. The population is aging and Baby boomers have fewer children than their parents did. As a result, there will be more seniors and fewer children to care for them; demand may outstrip capacity. That is going to drive the need for change and improved tools and support for caregivers. Here are a few examples of how technology will advance caregiving in the future:
Apps and online tools are going to increase: There are certainly many apps available now to help caregivers with their responsibilities. These will only grow in the coming decade. The challenge is to know which apps work well. Look for apps that apply directly to your needs. Apps are already being developed that help people prepare for surgery and recovery, and guides them through exercises for rehabilitation. Others help people to understand illness and learn about medications and their side effects.
Support for seniors living at home: Technology will continue to advance to support seniors who want to age in place and continue living in their own homes. As the technology advances it will have privacy checks in place so that only issues of concern, like falling and taking medication on time, will be tracked with the rest of daily activities kept private. Some examples of this include:
- Remote monitoring in the home: The best of this technology provides remote monitoring for caregivers and physicians. Heart monitors, blood pressure monitors, and scales will be connected to doctor’s offices so they can receive daily readings from the senior. This can prevent conditions like heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease from worsening. It can also prevent the need for frequent trips to the doctor’s office, thereby reducing costs for everyone. For caregivers, this means fewer interruptions at work and better control of caregiving tasks.
- Safety monitors in the home: These monitors are an extension of the caregiver during the day. As they continue to advance, monitors will be able to send a notification to the caregiver if his or her loved one has fallen, taken medication on time, left the house or remains in bed. For caregivers of loved ones with dementia, sensors will help to know if they are safe, detecting if the refrigerator has been opened or if a burner on the stove has been left on.
Smart homes: One of the most exciting developments is the smart home. It will make it easier and safer for seniors to age in place. For example, power outlets will be at waist level instead of near the floor to help prevent falls caused by imbalance. Assistance finding car keys, the television remote, and the telephone will be built into the house. Lights will turn on from sensors in the floor helping to prevent falls during the night. Different appliances in the home will be able to communicate with one another. For example, the refrigerator will be able to send a screen message to the television telling the viewer that the refrigerator door has been left open.
What is old is new again. Futurists expect that as the senior population grows and there aren’t enough caregivers to meet the need, families may need to return to the nuclear, multi-generational family unit. Housing will have to expand to incorporate various generations so that it becomes easier to care for one another. Instead of senior housing, we will likely have multi-generational housing.
The future of caregiving will continue to evolve and technology promises to help it change for the better. With new technologies comes new communication tools for long-distance caregivers; this makes for easier more efficient health monitoring, keeping an eye on loved ones is becoming more manageable. These new tools will become a great resource for caregivers, and even reduce the risk of caregiver burnout. We hope caregivers will be able to work smarter, not harder in the next ten years.