Healthcare Technology Featured Article

December 12, 2013

Boomers Enjoying Longer Life at Home Thanks to Tech Innovations


As our longevity grows and geriatric health improves, quality of life in our elder years is an important topic. There are 10 million seniors living alone, and, according to a study published in the Journal of American Medicine, they’re not the healthiest generation. Boomers clock in with higher rates of hypertension, diabetes, obesity and cholesterol than previous generations. So how do we care for an aging generation without stepping on their toes?

Some elders don’t mind downsizing and moving into a retirement community flush with amenities and people their own age, but the vast majority of Americans want to stay in the home they’ve come to love, without becoming a burden on caregivers.

Visual Monitoring

Those caregivers are often adult children for whom technology is playing a key role in elder care. Video chat options like Skype and FaceTime let you see your loved ones, allow you to pick up those all-important non-verbal cues about their health and welfare. These platforms also let grandparents stay connected to friends and family they otherwise wouldn’t see very often, an important contributor to overall mental health.

Apps

We all remember the LifeCall medic alert commercials where poor Mrs. Fletcher has fallen and she can’t get up. Emergency medic alert systems are now abound and are even integrated into some cell phones targeted to older users, like the Jitterbug. Apple’s Caring in Place app serves caregivers by keeping responsibilities organized in checklists.

Home Monitoring

Personal care can be the vulnerable spot in many parent-child relationships, as adult children try to monitor whether mom and dad are taking medication and eating regular meals. Here, role reversal, control issues and deception get tangled up with good intentions, and relationships can be ruined. Creations like MedMinder and TabSafe smart pillboxes can be a lifesaver for families, providing locked or unlocked dispensers with integrated reminders for the parent and cellular notification for the caregiver. These systems can be pricey, however, so less expensive options like GlowCaps – lids that attach to pill bottles and provide visual and audio reminders – are also available.

When more comprehensive care or monitoring is required, whole house systems like SafeinHome and BeClose are allowing elders to stay in their homes while giving caregivers the ability to unobtrusively check in. Sensors placed around the home can monitor how long the refrigerator has been open, how long someone has sat in a chair or stayed in bed, and even if the faucet was left running. Many of these systems operate through cellular or Wifi so setup is simple and elders don’t feel like they’re burdening someone with complex installation. A side benefit comes when caregivers can talk to elders without the conversation focusing on well-being.

Health Monitoring

For elders with specific health issues, there are even tools like Microsoft’s Health Vault or HomMed’s Teleheath Monitor, which integrate with home health gadgets like scales, blood pressure cuffs and glucose monitors and provide instant readings to the caregiver.

The most important aspect of home health monitoring is agreement between the caregiver and user. If an elder is deceived or tricked into being monitored, or feels forced, not only can relationships be ruined but they will eventually find ways to stop using the system. But, thanks to advances like these, providing ongoing quality of life in the home of their choice is more possible than ever for our elders.




Edited by Blaise McNamee






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