Thanks to scientific breakthroughs in medicine, surgery, nutrition, and even technology, human beings are enjoying an increasingly longer lifespan. In many cases, that increase in years has also come with a corresponding increase in the number of years people are living healthy, fully-abled lives. However, there inevitably comes a point in every life when age catches up with even the healthiest among us and the body begins to deteriorate. When that occurs, seniors are finding that technology is affording them the opportunity to live out their golden years with increased levels of freedom and independence whether they are in their own homes or a long-term care facility.
As in every industry, technology has provided long-term caregivers and their patients with new ways to approach old problems. Technological innovations have made long-term care not only more affordable but also easier, and now caregivers are using computer technology to enhance the way they attend to, monitor, and interact with their patients, while those patients are using software, devices, and apps of their own to enjoy greater mobility, security, and quality of life than ever before.
With its ubiquity, it is easy to take the internet for granted. But connectivity and information resources should not be overlooked as technologies that have created a new dimension in caregiving. Today, caregivers have access to information online that helps them to fulfill their roles more effectively than ever. Patient data can be shared more easily, and vital information regarding medications, treatment options, and breakthroughs can be disseminated in the blink of an eye.
Recent statistics reveal that over 70% of caregivers go online to gather health information. Searches online may range from finding out about diagnosis, treatments, and drugs for certain medical conditions, to learning about the experience of others as a way of improving techniques.
But online healthcare searches go beyond reading official resources and medical journals. Statistics also show that more than 50% of patients and caregivers are involved in various health-related social networks online. In this way, information is not the only thing that spreads. So does support, hope, and inspiration.
There are also other forms of technology that have benefited both seniors and their healthcare providers in various ways. With this in mind, here are some of the technologies that have proven the most helpful to long-term caregivers and their patients.
As a refresher, GPS stands for “Global Positioning System.” GPS is a technology that facilitates communication between a satellite and a receiver on the ground in order to track the exact position of that receiver anywhere on Earth.
Specialized GPS location and tracking devices have been developed to help caregivers know about the exact location of their patients at any time. These trackers can be worn on the wrist, carried in a pocket, around the neck, or attached to clothing in some other way.
Some of these devices are equipped with alert systems that help the caregiver to know if a patient has left a particular geographical area. The notification may come via phone call, email, or text. This allows the patient freedom to roam a facility, their home, or even the neighborhood, while the caregiver can be assured the patient is in a safe area.
Apart from alerting an attendant caregiver, GPS Trackers may also be configured to notify health personnel in case of an emergency.
PERS (Personal Emergency Response Systems)
Similar to GPS trackers are Personal Emergency Response Systems, which are mostly recommended for a senior with a medical condition or a person with a disability who may find themselves in an urgent emergency. The device usually comes with a button that the wearer presses to contact a health responder whenever there’s an emergency; however, there are also those who are tethered to a bed or wheelchair and will alert the caregiver if the connection is broken, indicating that the patient has moved from the bed or chair. Some Personal Emergency Response Systems can be worn on the go, enhancing the security of GPS usage.
Whether at home or in a care facility during the overnight hours when there are fewer staff members available per patient, a PERS can minimize response time in an emergency, increasing the chances of a positive outcome for all involved.
Reminder software and apps help to ensure the safety of seniors when the caregivers are not close. They also serve to keep patients on track with long-term care and recovery tasks and follow-ups.
Medication reminders may range from pill identification tools (in case of multiple prescriptions), to scheduling systems and reminder alarms to help alert patients when it is time to take their medicine, perform physical or cognitive therapy exercises, or check in with their caregiver.
Most of these apps can be customized to suit the specific needs of the patient and may even include motivation tools such as games, tips, and prize contests that encourage patients to stick to their medical regime. Most of these reminder apps usually come embedded with monitoring systems, again showing that ways in which the multiple facets of caregiving and technology are interweaving.
Seniors tend to forget things. This is often chalked up to the patient starting to suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, but memory loss can also be attributed to drug side effects and certain combinations of medication. Picture phones have been developed for such cases. These are landline phones specifically designed for seniors who need help remembering phone numbers as well as how to make and receive calls. They also include large, easy to read buttons and louder volume settings to assist seniors. This gives caregivers and family members the peace of mind to know that the patient can easily use the phone to reach out for help or contact.
Wireless Home Monitoring
Electrical Use Monitoring is a relatively new technology designed to monitor the use of electrical appliances by a loved one and alerts the caregiver whenever there is an emergency. This is especially important when the senior and caregiver are not living together. Through device alerts and updates, the caregiver gets to know which electrical appliances are being used and which the senior may have forgotten to turn off (or on, as the case may be).
Closely related to electrical use monitoring systems are wireless home monitoring devices that can also alert caregivers in case something unusual happens. For instance, when a patient is taking too long to come out from the bathroom, it could mean that he or she has fallen or needs other assistance. Even more promising is the fact that as the Internet of Things becomes a greater and greater reality, home appliances—and our homes themselves—are beginning to incorporate connectivity and software storage, making it easier than ever for patients and caregivers to include home monitoring as part of their care framework.
Wireless monitoring can be used in patient homes, as well as in suites and apartments in facilities where patients are given a large degree of independence.
The technology revolution has reached the long-term care industry and is changing the way healthcare providers fulfill their duties. The burden is on facilities and institutions to not only stay up-to-date with technological advancements, but to have the I.T. infrastructure to ensure that patients and caregivers are both receiving the full advantage of the technologies they are using. For help maximizing your company’s use of technology and readiness for the future, contact the healthcare industry I.T. experts at JMARK.