Technology has revolutionized the way I live and work. I love this brave new world and welcome it into both my personal and professional life.
Innovations like Fitbit, Netflix and Facebook keep me healthy, entertained and connected with friends from long ago. And with 24/7 internet availability and advances in telecommunications technology, the New York City Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association is always at my fingertips. I can work almost anytime, anywhere. My productivity and efficiency have skyrocketed.
But, sometimes there's a cost. Romantic getaways with my husband have been interrupted by emergency work calls. On special afternoons out with my granddaughter, I can almost feel my blood pressure rise with the incessant vibration of my iPhone. A quiet Sunday night at home enjoying re-runs of "The Good Wife" often ends when I become too engrossed in work emails and miss my favorite parts.
I urge all Alzheimer's caregivers, as well as their friends and family to fully embrace technology and take advantage of the many benefits and improvements it can bring into your lives. But a word of caution: don't let it take over your life and become a substitute for the things that really matter.
The tools available today to caregivers can be life-altering. For instance, The NYC Chapter's website is an excellent resource for caregivers who need helpful information, classes, workshops and support groups.
Together We Care is another of our great web innovations - connecting home health aides who have completed the New York City Chapter's Dementia Care Training for Professional Caregivers and families seeking to hire trained aides to provide care.
The Balance App for Alzheimer's family caregivers helps you track medications, keep tabs on doctor appointments, and monitor the heath and behavior of your family member and immediately share the information with other caregivers and health care professionals.
Caregivers can take advantage of automatic bill paying to make sure that mom's bills are paid on time and that heat and electricity remain "on" during the dead of winter.
And through email, phone calls and social media, friends can easily stay in touch with family caregivers who often sacrifice their personal lives and well-being while caring for a person with Alzheimer's.
From instructional videos on YouTube to state-of-the-art equipment that will allow you to watch your loved one from next door or half-way across the country, and from iPods loaded with the favorite music of the those with dementia which makes them come alive, to GPS technology that can track a wanderer's whereabouts, technology can greatly ease a caregiver's burden.
But I fear that we may become so engaged with technology that we forget that 21st-century innovation is no substitute for hands-on loving care and affection for both the person with dementia and the caregiver.
Watching a person with dementia on video monitor is no substitute for loving physical touch. Playing music on an iPod cannot replace patiently listening and paying attention even when the person with dementia may not be making any sense. Going to the Alzheimer's Association website and researching support groups is meaningless unless you actually get up and join one! Using a GPS tracking device to monitor your dad's whereabouts is no replacement for taking him on a leisurely stroll, hand-in-hand, around the block. A friend's email to a caregiver is not the same as a personal visit and a warm hug. A telephone call is not the same as a shoulder to cry on.
Albert Einstein once said, "It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity."
With some common sense, compassion and patience, I know the Alzheimer's community can prove Mr. Einstein wrong.