How Does Technology Make A Difference For Home Care?

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By Arielle Kimbarovsky

Unfortunately, we don’t all live three minutes away from our parents, grandparents, or other older loved ones who need care. And even if we do, most family caregivers have full time jobs or other responsibilities that can prevent them from being accessible 100% of the time.

In situations like these, many family caregivers must skip work or important obligations, or hire home care agencies to fill the void. Unfortunately, home care agencies are usually expensive to hire, and don’t pay their caregivers enough. In addition to that, scheduling the care can prove to be pretty tricky- not to mention unpredictable.

Anyone who has dealt with hiring, using, or working in home care knows that it can be a very challenging field to navigate.

Image credit: Jurgen Appelo

But with the outbreak and evolution of new technologies, companies are making it easier on caregivers, loved ones, and their families to be a part of home care. Companies are enhancing specialized devices, simplifying and expanding communication channels, and centralizing information. It’s never been a better time to use or be a part of home care!

One of the most difficult aspects of home care is that there is so much information to understand and know. It can be hard enough for a family member or close friend to keep track of things like medical conditions, appointments, tasks, and medications, but even harder for an outside caregiver to stay on top of it all. It’s pretty common to see older people with several lists or notebooks of information, much of which is scattered and incomplete. It’s a little bit like keeping track of paper receipts, so difficult that most of us just don’t. But things like medication, important appointments, bridge tournaments, or happiness can’t be tossed aside just like a paper receipt. Just think about your life without a calendar or a to do list app- you might even remember what it was like before those tools! That level of difficulty is what caregivers used to face before the creation of specialized calendar apps, record apps, medical apps, and more that allow caregivers, loved ones, medical professionals, and families to communicate.

Image credit: Ash Kyd

It’s not just the apps that are important innovations in caregiving- devices such as smartphones, tablets, and even simplified computers have become crucial to changing the way that home care functions. While the new Samsung smartphone or iPad haven’t necessarily been invented with the goal of making home care easier, they both serve as “homes” for the apps that have changed caregiving. They’re smaller too! The more mobile, lighter designs of tablets and smartphones have enabled more caregivers to carry them with from job to job, as well as made it easier for family members on the go, and loved ones who don’t care for a heavy desktop monitor. Even doctors have started to get on board, with more and more offices transferring their records from file to tablet, or even to a small laptop. Home care doesn’t just mean providing care in a non moving environment, it actually means bringing all the environments to one area, making mobility key.

Not only have devices helped mobilize and connect care, they have also simplified technology for those of us who are more technologically challenged. These new devices have pushed other technology companies to build their devices and designs with more user friendly (and inclusive) features. Before features such as larger or bolded text, increased contrast, voice over readings, special hearing aid or vision aid settings, and other various accommodations, it would have been silly to ask an older loved one to even try to learn how to text or video chat. Actually, it would have been difficult for a lot of people to do that- regardless of age! Because these more mobile devices began incorporating these important features, computers and other softwares have too. So if buying a new device is too much, consider checking out some of the updated features of pre-existing software on your phone, tablet, or computer. And if it’s not updated, it’s important to keep that up to date to not miss out on these types of features.

Image credit: Crystian Cruz

The best part is that these technological advancements don’t just end at devices with special features, or specialized apps. A quick Google search reveals pages and pages of startups focusing on home care. And if that sounds like an average search to you, just check out the first page filled with articles like “30 Underrated Health Startups to Watch in 2015” or “Top VCs Target $7M Senior Care Market”. People are building, investing, and nurturing a new era of home care. While previously there was only one or two medical alert systems to choose form, there are now lists compiling the best ones. Realizing that traditional cameras are too invasive of privacy, some startups are creating specialized smart sensors to track prolonged periods of lying, sitting, or even just being in one room- depending on the settings set by the loved one, medical team, and family. Other companies are focusing on even more simplified tablets, with only basic functions for messaging, video chatting, or record/note keeping. And lastly, companies like Respect are leveraging technology to connect families and caregivers, while keeping the communication channels open, quality at a high standard, and convenience as necessary. Technology isn’t just making a small difference in home care, it’s revolutionizing the industry.

Arielle Kimbarovsky works for Respect, a service reimagining home care and helping seniors age gracefully from the comfort of their own home. Respect combines the best caregivers with smart technology to make managing your loved one’s home care simpler and more transparent. Learn more about how Respect is reimagining home care at JoinRespect.com.