Technological advances are happening quickly and regularly these days. However, these aren’t always embraced by the general public. As a luddite myself, I was recently recommended to learn about the GPS application on my new cell phone. After fumbling and cursing, I finally mastered this tool and now greatly appreciate how it helps me.
Can technological advances help caregivers as well? Yes, and significantly so! Here are some reasons why:
- Size. Small technological devices can fit in a caregiver’s pocket and are easily transportable.
- Ability. Whether small or large, technological devices can effortlessly perform a variety of tasks, significantly lightening the caregiver’s workload.
- Remote operation. Technology can also reliably work from a distance. Therefore, caregivers are not required to be physically with their client or loved one at a specific time.
- Trust. Taking a moment to program an alert helps ensure the action will happen, allowing you to lean less of your memory or physical reminders. Use the features of phones or other devices to your benefit so you create or personalize your schedule.
- Motivation to move and exercise. Some technological tools will prompt a senior to exercise on a regular basis. An active senior will remain healthier and be less at risk of falling.
- Tracking. If a senior has Alzheimer’s disease, they can become prone to wandering. Technology can help keep an eye on seniors leaving their homes or care facilities throughout the day and make sure they aren’t wandering at night.
What do You Need to Remember When Considering Your Caregiving Tech Tools?
Shopping for technological tools for seniors, much like shopping for any product or service, often requires preliminary research. This involves asking the question, “how can the product or service best help me?” Then you go through a comparison phase by asking, “how is the product or service better than others on the market?”
When choosing caregiving tech tools, remember the following:
- User comfort. Users must be comfortable and capable, or they may simply give up and either ignore or discard the product or software.
- Security. You and your loved one’s personal information (e.g. health, financial, and/or home addresses) must be kept private. How will the application ensure your privacy will remain safe and secure? Review any previous customers’ reviews to see if anybody has reported any negative issues.
- Finger dexterity. The keys on a cell phone, tablet, or laptop computer can be quite small and may perform dual functions. Many devices let you increase the size of the font in the settings so it’s easier to read. While it can be a bit bulkier, consider a larger computer’s keyboard instead if your parent still has trouble.
- Customer service. When I have a question about any product or service, a personal pet peeve is having to wade through an extensive website to find the answer you’re looking for. It can be much easier and often far less frustrating to simply call the customer service department and speak with someone “live”. If there is no help desk, online community help forums and chat rooms are common resources to explore as well. These online spaces provide users with the opportunity to discuss their experiences, share feedback about what they have purchased or used, and help encourage others to ask questions about offered products and services.
What Technological Tools can Help You or a Senior?
- A Smartphone. A smartphone can be a senior’s best friend! If you’re worried that your loved one won’t know how to use it, there are Smartphone 101 classes offered at local community centers to build seniors’ confidence. The major benefits for seniors and caregivers include the following:
- Transportability and safety. A senior can easily carry the portable phone around to use in the case of emergencies. Should a senior fall inside or outside the home, a regular landline telephone may be too far away to reach.
- Emergency back-up. If there are any problems with the senior’s landline phone, a cell phone can serve as an excellent option for staying in touch with loved ones.
- Internet access. If an area has cellular coverage, a smart phone user can browse the internet from anywhere, anytime. Individuals can find the information they need while they are in shopping malls, lawyer’s offices, grocery store lines, and parking lots. If your loved one doesn’t have a computer, they can use their smartphone instead.
- Personalized contact. Smartphone users can call each other using video chat. With FaceTime or Skype, caregivers and seniors can chat face-to-face. This provides caregivers a much better opportunity to gauge how Mom or Dad is doing.
- Voice recorder. Many smartphones come with a voice recorder that caregivers can use to create reminders for themselves. Additionally, voice recorders could be used to record conversations with a doctor about the status of a senior’s medical care plan or with a banker about a senior’s financial holdings. Just remember to get permission from others before hitting the “record” button! Seniors can also leave themselves reminders to easily listen back to at a later time.
- Making memories. Seniors with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia may not remember the fun outings you went on last week. Having a phone to take photos with gives you something to look back at and share the moment all over again.
- Mobile apps or websites. Once the caregiver and senior both have smartphones, there are many apps and websites that can provide them with the personalized support that meets their needs. Some of these include:
- CareZone. Carezone can help with staying on track with medication management. Family caregivers can create a list of currently-prescribed medications, schedule reminders to take medication(s), and even refill medications from the pharmacy.
- First Aid by American Red Cross. Emergencies can happen anywhere and at any time. This app’s videos and safety tips can prove useful for caregivers needing to respond. A handy feature of this app is the preloaded content, which means that family caregivers and seniors won’t need telephone reception or
- CaringBridge. Through CaringBridge, family members can create an online journal to provide health and medical updates to others. This can prove to be very valuable in the case of a geographically scattered family. My cousins used CaringBridge to share news about my aunt when she was in hospice care.
- GPS systems. Google Maps, Sygic, OsmAnd, and MAPS.ME are among the many GPS systems that can direct caregivers from one address to the next, recommend the quickest route, provide the anticipated driving time, and alert drivers of traffic disruptions so that they could detour in advance if needed.
- 1Weather, Accuweather, and Today Weather. These are among the many daily weather apps available and can be of use as caregivers will better know which jacket a senior should wear on an outing.
- Google Calendar. This is just one of many reminder apps for seniors and caregivers. Prescriptions can relieve pain or sickness; however, they are only effective when not overlooked. With Google Calendar, users will be reminded (through beeps and vibrations) to take their medication. Reminders can also be set for doctors appointments or events like band performances or birthdays.
- Uber/Lyft. Rideshare apps are a great way to transition Mom or Dad away from driving if you feel it’s no longer safe. Instead of losing their mobility, they can have a personal chauffeur drive them around town.
- Instacart/Amazon Fresh. Time is often lacking as a caregiver, so how about having a personal shopper? Apps like Instacart or Amazon allow you to place an order for your groceries and household supplies from the comfort of your own home and have them delivered right to your doorstep. Similarly, if your parent keeps forgetting to buy something like laundry detergent, you can often set up recurring shipments to make sure they never run out.
- Solitaire. Card games are great for brain health so download a few like solitaire for your loved one to play in their free time.
- Headspace. There are many benefits of meditation for seniors and caregivers alike. Now you can have a personal instructor in your pocket! Headspace is one of many apps that can help you center yourself and recharge in just a few minutes a day.
- Home alert systems. Seniors, frequently, wish to remain living in their own homes. The concern is often “is their home safe and secure?” Home alert systems can be simple or more elaborate.
- Home alert systems can be easily installed by connecting to a home telephone.
- Seniors can wear a necklace or bracelet with a call button to press when they need help.
- For added security, a home alert system could also include the installation of video cameras inside the senior’s home. For privacy’s sake, however, bathroom or bedroom cameras would point towards the floor.
- Home alert systems can effectively monitor a senior’s home from a distance. Should there be any movement irregularities, monitoring staff can call the senior to check-in and, if necessary, also contact family members. Such calls can provide increased peace-of-mind to geographically distant family caregivers who may have reduced contact with the seniors.
- Robots. While they cannot replace a human’s personal caring touch, robots are joining the staff of long-term care facilities and show valuable potential. Whether in human or animal form, robots can:
- Provide reminders to seniors
- Monitor health conditions
- Perform various tasks like vacuuming
- Provide social contact to prevent loneliness
- Voice-activated technology. Devices like Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home can help those seniors who do not feel comfortable with a smartphone or caregivers who are always juggling responsibilities. Instead of needing to type our lists, reminders, or alarms, you can simply address your device and have it do the work for you.
- Wearable technology. Wearable devices like the Apple Watch or Fitbit can be great motivational tools for seniors and caregivers. Tracking one’s heart rate, physical activity, and sleep can show which areas one is excelling in, and which could use more attention.
The list of tech for seniors and caregivers certainly doesn’t end here. Other choices including audiobooks, Netflix, YouTube, and podcasts can also be added to this list. Technology – in any form – can make a caregiver’s and a senior’s life easier by simplifying a task or simply providing entertainment. Finding what works for you and your loved one is key to successfully integrating them into your routine.