Bridge the Long Distance- Marie Villeza
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Bridge the Long-Distance Caregiver Gap With Technology
The year 2011 marked the first time in American history where the number of adults aged 65 and over exceeded the number of children under the age of five. The baby boomers had reached retirement, in droves. And by 2015, 48.8 million of the population was over 65, with an estimated 98.2 million, nationwide, estimated by 2060. Of this number, a whopping 19.7 million is expected to be over 85.
With an increasing population of seniors, naturally more of us have had to become protectors from afar. About 11 million Americans are serving as long-distance caregivers, living more than an hour away, according to the National Institute on Aging.
The way they manage care over the miles, though, has been completely transformed by the use of fast-advancing technology. AARP reports an estimated $42.9 billion was spent on the caregiving market in 2016, and they expect that by 2020, it will be as high as $72.2 billion, as families look for the best technological solutions to manage their loved one’s care.
Here’s a look at some amazing technology apps you can use if you’re assisting a loved one.
Video chatting is a great way to stay in touch with family members who may feel lonely. It also allows you get a good look at them to check for any signs of illness, disorientation, or other problems. You can even attend doctor’s appointments this way. Try Facetime via your iPhone, or Skype via a computer or phone, for video chatting.
Managing medication needs and adherence from afar can be one of the most worrisome and challenging issues you face, especially if your parent has ever had issues with addiction. Enter smartphone medication-monitoring apps. Downloading an app to your phone and your parent’s phone will put medication information at your fingertips. It provides education on your parent’s condition and medication and sends reminders to patients to help with compliance. Physicians can also log in to the app to check in on their patient’s progress. Consider either the Medisafe or MedHelper app.
Online patient portals, provided by the patient’s physician, provide the most up-to-date patient records in real time. Information includes health-status changes, lab results, medications prescribed, and treatment plans. Work with your loved one’s physician to make sure you have online access to his or her records.
In the event of a medical emergency, it’s important to have a system in place so your loved one can get immediate help. Laurie Orlov, technology expert from Aging in Place, recommends two different systems to families: GreatCall 5Star Response service and MobileHelp. Both provide you with a good option for a personal emergency-response device for an aging loved one who lives alone.
If your loved one is surrounded by other family members and friends who may be willing to assist, consider using a care calendar to help plan when you’ll need assistance. You can create calendars for meal sharing, transportation help, and other tasks you may need a hand with. Consider creating a care community at lotsahelpinghands.com.
If you’re sensing that seniors may be having memory issues, and even if they’re not, you may want to track their location via their phone. Knowing where they are can also provide you a way to provide emergency care for them if they are away from home. Consider GPS apps, such as Trax and PocketFinder.
Various health monitors can now be connected to the internet, so family and physicians can monitor a patient’s condition. Blood-pressure cuffs, blood-glucose monitors, and even heart monitors provide web and mobile app tools for tracking and analyzing data from the devices. Consider an AliveCor heart monitor, an Omron blood-pressure cuff, or Glucosio for monitoring and managing diabetes.
Using these apps can give you greater peace of mind when it comes to caring for your loved one from afar. Perhaps more importantly, though, you can enjoy a stronger sense of connection. There’s nothing like spending an evening on Skype reliving childhood memories with mom or dad to bridge the gap.
Author: Ms. Villeza developed ElderImpact.org to provide seniors and their caregivers with resources and advice.