I have no doubt that tech of all kinds will play an ever-growing role in how we provide and receive care. The challenges posed by demographic change happen to be rising just as we come into possession of new tools and services that will make navigating the complexity of aging much easier.
- Dr. Joe Coughlin, Director of the MIT AgeLab
You’ve seen the cycle with friends. Their parents became frail and now need help doing basic things around the house, scheduling their transportation, and keeping track of meds. Your friends are concerned about their parents’ ability to live safely on their own. They tell you about technology that’s helped them with caregiving. You listen politely, and put it in the back of your mind. That’s not your situation—not yet.
First, Caregiving Can Come as a Surprise
The kids are gone—and your house is your own again. But your father-in-law in Florida dies suddenly, leaving a wife who has never written a check or driven on her own. Or a family get-together reveals just how frail your parents have become—and you weren’t aware or ready for how bad the situation has become. But your busy siblings rely on you to make decisions. Your aging family member needs you. Without training or preparation, you have become one of America’s 34 million unpaid family caregivers. It’s going to take lots of time and energy.1
You May Not Even Consider Yourself a Caregiver
More than 80% of surveyed caregivers say they don’t see themselves as caregivers.1 But if they checked out the definition, they’d realize that it’s talking about their situation: “Family caregivers are responsible for the physical, emotional, and, often, financial support of another person, who is unable to care for him/herself due to illness, injury, or disability.” It’s simple, really. Your family member cannot manage life without help.
Second, Technology Can Help Family Caregivers
You remember how your friends told you how they used technology to navigate the growing demands of caregiving. And now you’re wondering if tech can help you. Technology can be useful, depending on the status of your loved one’s level of independence. It can help meet needs ranging from home safety to coordinating complex care.