Each November, National Family Caregivers Month reminds us of the important, commendable work that family caregivers do each and every day. It also serves as a reminder of the mental and physical toll that caregiving can take. Fortunately, modern technology offers a number of solutions for easing this burden, making life easier for caregivers and empowering their loved ones to live more comfortable, more independent lives. If you’re a caregiver for someone in your family, here are the five most important tech tools you need to know.
A centralized system that incorporates everything from safety monitors to socialization, GrandCare is designed to empower both caregivers and their loved ones. A large, high-visibility touchscreen provides simple access to medication reminders, weather updates, daily schedules, video chat and a variety of other tools that help seniors age in place in comfort, while an online portal gives caregivers on-the-go access to activity patterns, alerts, medical information and more. Optional sensors can expand the system to allow detailed activity and wellness monitoring, creating a highly customized system that’s designed with the specific needs and concerns of each senior and their caregiver in mind. Doctors and other healthcare providers can also be granted access to the system, making GrandCare a great holistic solution for those requiring ongoing medical care.
Automated Pill Dispensers
Managing even a single prescription drug can prove difficult for some people, but juggling the half-dozen or more medications that many seniors take every day can quickly become overwhelming. This frequently leads to skipping or doubling doses, which may carry real health consequences. One solution to this problem is automated pill dispensers, which use digital timers to automatically dispense medications on a preprogrammed schedule. Many such dispensers also feature alarms to provide notification of each dosage time, and some are also available with monitoring so that caregivers or health professionals can ensure compliance. For added peace of mind, seek out a locked, tamper-proof dispenser to ensure that no one can access the stored medications until the appropriate time.
Personal Emergency Response Systems
A family caregiver’s worst nightmare is for their loved one to fall or suffer a medical emergency and be rendered unable to call for help. Unfortunately, this scenario is all too common, and studies have shown that an elderly person’s odds of surviving such an ordeal fall sharply the longer they go without help. To alleviate this risk, a personal emergency response system (PERS) ensures that assistance is always within arm’s reach, providing a small, lightweight transmitter that can call for help with just the press of a button. These transmitters typically come in the form of a wrist or necklace pendant, and they connect the user to a 24/7 monitoring service that can promptly summon the appropriate emergency services.
Home Automation and Home Monitoring
Independent living is very important for many seniors, but managing daily tasks can become a real chore. Home automation lends a helping hand by placing all sorts of tasks at your loved one’s fingertips, from smart lighting that can be turned on or off from anywhere in the home to smart thermostats that can be set based on your loved one’s schedule and preferences. Smart technology can help with monitoring and security, too. Smart security systems can be viewed remotely from virtually anywhere, allowing both you and your loved one to stay aware of their surroundings and check visitors at the door. Paired with smart locks, the door can even be unlocked remotely for expected visitors. Similarly, indoor smart cameras are a great way for you to keep an eye on your loved one even when you can’t be there physically, ensuring that you’re never left out of contact.
There really is an app for nearly everything, and caregiving is no exception. Apps like Lotsa Helping Hands, CareZone and Caring Village help with managing your loved one’s care, allowing you to bring friends and family members together, communicate securely, create and assign tasks that need to be done, share photos and much more. Another useful app is eCare21, which works with wearable devices and monitors to provide convenient, unintrusive monitoring of everything from activity levels to heart rate and blood glucose. Finally, AARP Caregiving provides many of the same scheduling, monitoring and communication functions as other apps, but it also includes a highly useful help center with all sorts of health and safety information, frequently asked questions and even answers to urgent questions.
Being a family caregiver is certainly meaningful and rewarding work, but it’s also tremendously challenging. With a little help from modern technology, you can make your job easier, give your loved one more freedom and independence and ensure that they’re as safe and comfortable in their homes as possible.
Maricel Tabalba is a freelance writer who is interested in writing about smart gadgets, emerging tech trends and environmentally friendly advice. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in Communication from the University of Illinois at Chicago.