Technology is an amazing thing. It can connect us to people on the other side of the world, turn your local coffee shop into an office, and order a new spring wardrobe without ever having to leave your couch. It seems only natural that technology would also help people who are caring for aging parents.
Caregiving technology can help you keep an eye on a loved one from afar, reduce stress, and provide you with the peace of mind that comes with knowing your parent will be able to be monitored round the clock, even if you can't be there. AARP recently published a study that predicts a major shortage in caregivers over the coming years. By 2030, when the last of the Baby Boomers has turned 65, the caregiver support ratio (which is currently around 7 caregivers per each high-risk 80-year-old) will fall to 4 to 1 and continue to drop as the Boomers age into their 80's. So technology is trying to pick up the slack.
There are currently many apps, programs and services that are trying to bridge this caregiving gap. These programs range in price, but really seem to cover the gamut of needs for both the patient and the caregiver.
According to the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists, on average, people between the ages of 65 and 69 years old "take nearly 14 prescriptions per year, individuals aged 80 to 84 take an average of 18 prescriptions per year." The senior population only makes up about 13 percent of the overall population, but consumes over 40 percent of all prescription drugs purchased in the U.S.
For many seniors, their lives literally depend on taking their medications, so it's important to take steps to ensure medication management. MediSafe is a free app that assists with medication management by sending users alerts when it's time to take their medications and also syncs with family, friends, and caregivers to alert them when pills haven't been taken.
The Pill Monitor is one of the highest-rated pill reminder apps on itunes. In addition to being able to send you alerts when it's time to take your medication, this free app also has the ability to email pill logs to your doctors.
The biggest source of caregiver guilt lies in the inability to be there for your loved one 24/7. With family, work, and life obligations, even with the best of intentions, the reality is that it's simply not possible -- even if they live in your house with you.
In order to preserve your sanity and prevent caregiver burnout, consider bringing in a little help. A medical alert device is a great safety net for medical emergencies. Most companies offer a wide range of models at various price points and provide around-the-clock monitoring services. Medical Alert Comparison is a great tool to help you figure out which medical alert company is right for you and your loved ones.
If you need something a little more advanced to help care for a loved one with Alzheimer's Disease, the Alzheimer's Association has some great resources on their website on electronic tracking devices. These devices provide tracking services for people who are at high-risk for wandering off. They range in sophistication and price, but they're guaranteed to help you keep your loved one safe in potentially harmful situations.
As we get older, we require more medical maintenance, which leads to more appointments to keep track of, and more information to remember. ZocDoc is a free service that allows patients to find a nearby doctor or dentist who accepts their insurance, see their real-time availability, and instantly book an appointment. It's remarkably easy to use and their 5-star rating system is pretty reliable.
If you want something that can help you keep track of medical history, test results and prescription information, the My Medical app can help. It's not free; it costs $3.99 for the app, but the one-time purchase allows you to securely store an unlimited amount of medical histories for you and your family, send your records directly to doctors, and grants you access to a database of "medical jargon like prescription drug names, vaccinations, common afflictions, laboratory units, and more."
Innovations in the world of technology are built with the intention of enhancing our lives in some way. As a caregiver, it's important to take advantage of all available tools to help prevent burnout. According to the Cleveland Clinic, burnout "can occur when caregivers don't get the help they need, or if they try to do more than they are able -- either physically or financially." If you think you need more than technology to help guide you through the caregiving process, reach out to a friend, therapist, or spiritual counselor to help you figure out the best way to navigate your specific situation. After all, what good is being able to connect with someone on the other side of the world, if you're too stressed to enjoy the conversation?