March 13, 2019

Sometimes, it’s easy to take all of the amazing technology we have access to for granted, isn’t it?

For instance, right at this moment, you may be reading this article on a smartphone, with a screen the size of your hand. You may be on the train, or in the park, or sitting at home.

Now, this may not seem remarkable, because, well, it’s commonplace. The vast majority of us use smartphones every day, whether to read, play games, surf the internet, connect on social media, or text with friends and family. But when you think about it, the power contained in every cell phone is actually astonishing. We now have the ability to connect from anywhere, at any time. Tasks that would have seemed incredibly complicated and technical a few years ago are now easy to complete in a matter of seconds.

That’s the power of technology. It can add new features and solve problems in many different aspects of life – and that includes caregiving.

For many Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers, technology is a fact of life. It’s something you grew up with, and likely use every day. Now, as a member of the Sandwich Generation, you may be looking for ways to integrate technology into your caregiving plan for the older adults in your life. Indeed, many adult caregivers have found that using technology can be a great way to improve the quality of life and independence for their senior loved ones. Whether you avoid new technology, or are a total tech geek, there are all sorts of ways you can put the power of technology to work making things easier for the senior family members in your care – while simplifying and streamlining things for yourself.

Here are a few common ways that family caregivers are integrating technology into their care plans for seniors:

Video Calls

If your loved one has a laptop, a smartphone, a computer with a webcam device, or a “smart screen” – which could be anything from certain TVs to devices like the Amazon Echo Screen – then you can easily chat face-to-face, even if you’re miles apart. While some seniors may initially find it daunting to connect via video chat, the benefits of setting up this way to stay social could be enormous. In fact, according to a report from U.S. News & World Report, senior adults “who used video chat applications such as Skype and FaceTime had almost half the estimated probability of depressive symptoms” as those who used less personal forms of communication, like email or instant messaging.

In-Home Cameras and Sensors

Video calls are a great way to help your senior loved one stay social. In other cases, families have used a different type of video service to help out their seniors, particularly those who live alone. As the National Council for Aging Care explains, it’s becoming more common to add cameras and sensors in strategic areas around a senior’s home. For one thing, having footage can help you observe and “make sure seniors are being treated properly” by a hired caregiver or medical professional, as the National Council for Aging Care puts it. As the NCfAC explains, adding small wireless devices around the home can also help you track a senior loved one’s activity levels, and get a notification if they seem to be out at night, for example, or if they haven’t left their room in some time.

Smartphone and Tablet Apps

While your senior loved one may not use a smartphone as regularly as much as you, these devices can still be a great way for older adults to plug in, and start accessing games, watching videos, and using e-reader capabilities. At the same time, many smartphones and tablets boast apps that offer positive features for senior users. As the NCfAC puts it:

“With any basic smartphone, seniors can monitor things like their medication, heart rate, and location (if they’re someone with memory loss and may suddenly not know where they are).”

Similarly, smartphones can offer benefits to family caregivers, who can use these same apps to check up on their senior family, and even effortlessly transmit important information to caregivers and medical professionals, if necessary.

Virtual Assistant Systems

Wouldn’t it be nice if your senior family could control their lights, TV, and other appliances, all with just the sound of their voice? Today, this capability isn’t science fiction. Smart home technology has become more commonplace, and millions of families are putting smart, connected devices to work right now. There are many different ways to get started. Smart speakers and virtual assistants, such as the Amazon Echo or Google Home, allow voice controls, and offer functions like music playback, games, phone calls, medication reminders, and more.

You can also use these “hub” devices to connect to other smart systems, such as digital thermostats, smart outlets, and others. Even a few minor additions can make a big difference. For instance, at the end of the night, your loved one could program their downstairs lights to turn off automatically, so they don’t have to make the trek out of bed. Depending on your budget and the amount of installation you’d like to do, the options and benefits, truly, are endless.

Medical Wearables

As Clinician Today explains:

“While always mentioned in passing, wearable pendants are not a technological advancement that should be ignored. While some only connect patients with caregivers who are within a certain range, others allow for GPS monitoring and emergency response. Choosing the devices that are right for your situation and elderly charge will make a world of difference in their quality of life.”

Today, pendants, bracelets, and other digital “wearables” can offer seniors and their caregivers a number of benefits. From monitoring their vital signs and movement, to offering encouraging reminders to take medication or get active, to providing an instant way to contact police or EMS, these devices are remarkably useful – and it’s generally pretty simple to get started with them, even for the less technologically savvy users.

Don’t Forget the Human Touch

Technology can help you provide for your aging loved ones in many ways – but it won’t work fully unless there is love, dedication, and attention to detail powering it all.

Caregiving is often about keeping many different plates spinning at once. Using smart technology and digital hacks can be a great way to help make some things easier, allowing you to put your focus on new challenges and opportunities as they come up. At the same time, it’s important to realize that technology won’t be a “one-size-fits-all” solution for every family. Many seniors are going to be resistant to making changes, such as learning how to use Skype or accepting digital helpers into the home. Similarly, you may have reservations or doubts about your own skill level with technology. That’s perfectly all right, and you should follow your instincts. Don’t feel like you have to add new elements to your caregiving plan if they won’t actually help simplify or clarify things.

Whether you incorporate technology into your senior care plan or not, don’t forget the power of physically being with your loved one. Technology can help you solve some problems, but it’s certainly not the end-all-be-all in every case. Successfully providing for your senior loved one is still going to mean spending quality face-to-face time together, assessing their needs, and making sure that they are getting the support they require for housekeeping, transportation, and activities of daily living. Technology can help you provide for your senior family, but it’s a means to an end. Smart devices and digital solutions are there to empower you and your senior family member to connect more. Smart devices can make things easier, give you back time, and help your loved one live more independently, but there are some essential human elements that will always be a key part of the caregiving picture.

How Companions for Seniors Can Help

Do you have any questions about providing for the senior family in your life? Do you have an aging parent who you feel could benefit from some additional help around the house – or even just a friendly companion to run errands or spend time with? Don’t hesitate to get in touch with Companions for Seniors to start discussing all of your options!

At Companions for Seniors, our mission is to help seniors live independently and with dignity in the comfort of their own home by empowering them to lead an active and enriched lifestyle, connecting them with their community, and nurturing meaningful relationships.

Our companions are trained, bonded, and insured, and can help provide a variety of services designed to help your loved one remain in the comfort of their own home, including assistance with housekeeping, ADLs, driving, and more. We’re locally owned and operated in the Chicago area, with clients in the city and suburbs. Companions for Seniors provides a free in-home assessment of your current situation, and in most cases we can be up and running in just a few days. We offer flexible hours, with fully customizable care plans tailored to each client’s unique needs.