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How Technology Can Help if You Suddenly Become a Caregiver

Laurie Orlov

Technology Can Help You Find, Manage, and Enrich Care

 


 

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.

 

What We’ll Cover:

  • Caregiving can come as a surprise
  • Technology can help family caregivers
  • Helping your loved one avoid that dreaded move to senior living

 

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.

 


How Technology Can Help as Caregiving Becomes More Complex

As care needs evolve, different technology categories become more important. At the beginning you may only want to know that your family member is safely home. Over time, especially with those who show signs of dementia, you may want to introduce a wearable tracker (mobile personal emergency response system) that can be worn when your loved one goes out alone.


Technology Can Help You Find Care

Read the AARP article below about hiring a caregiver. Then consider the resources listed below it. These sites offer services based on ZIP code. So, they’re local to your situation. Before proceeding with any specific decisions about your mom or dad’s care, it’s always a good idea to consult an elder law attorney, who can explain issues like power of attorney, trusts, and managing assets.

If you’re unfamiliar with the area around your family member, a geriatric care manager can help navigate which care services are best. Some care services, such as adult day/respite centers, must be researched locally, along with meal delivery, housecleaning, and home repair.

Identifies types and sources of care, including agencies, registries, and considerations about each

AARP How to Hire a Caregiver

Robust listing of resources by care type, with reviews if available

Caring.com

Independent in-home workers (sign up to search), reviews

Care.com

Independent in-home workers (sign up to see caregivers), reviews

Carelinx.com

Transportation options including remote and phone request, medical rides to doctor appointments

Uber Health, Lyft Concierge,
GoGo Grandparent, and Non-medical ride info

 

Tech Can Help You Monitor Care Remotely

If your parents don’t want to move, and they don’t want a home-care worker in the house just yet, technology in the home can help. Once your parent’s place is set up with high-speed internet and Wi-Fi, you can use technology to help manage care remotely. If your parent has a smartphone, they can have a smart doorbell app, such as Ring, in which they (or you, using the same app) can see who is at the door before answering it. In addition, technology can help you as the caregiver be better organized and more responsive to care needs.

Get home set up with network, Wi-Fi, devices, including security cameras, smart home, smart doorbells

Best Buy’s Geek Squad, Assured Living, and HelloTech

Tech to remotely monitor in-home care

Cameras, sensors, voice reminders, drop-ins

Tech to organize caregiving tasks, coordinating calendar assignments with other family members, tracking medical info, track medications, and manage activities of daily living (ADLs)

For families: Lotsa Helping Hands, CareZone, CaringBridge, Drugs.com, and WebMd.com

What are ADLs?
Apps for Activities of Daily Living (Android)

 

Tech Can Enrich Care

The technology below can help loved ones with hearing or vision problems. You’ll find phone and computer displays for people with limited vision. For hearing problems, you’ll find a broad array of hearing aids, sound amplifiers, and new hearing devices that are more affordable than traditional hearing aids. Plus, they’re more attractive.

Voice-activated technology—like smart speakers and voice assistants—can be very helpful as well as engaging to an individual living alone. These devices can tell your loved one the time, play their favorite music, or even read them a Kindle book. And being able to turn on the lights or change the room temperature can make life easier for someone who has difficulty walking.

For limited vision

 

Technology resources, including screen readers, computers, and smartphones

For limited hearing

Hearing aid information, Best PSAPs, and smartphone-connected hearing aids

For quality of life, including playing music, reading books, managing calendars, getting reminders, and checking in with family—all by using your voice and that of your loved one

Smart speakers and voice assistants, all voice-activated

For home automation – managing and controlling temperature, lights, home alarm and smart doorbells

How to make your house a smart home

Third, Helping Your Loved One Avoid That Dreaded Move to Senior Living

You’ve listened to your parents, and they don’t want to move to a nursing home. There are options even when care is needed. Family caregivers can bring in services that provide workers to help with care, transportation, and even the Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). Look for them to use technologies that can help keep you and your siblings informed. In addition, you should look at the house closely for tech changes that would make it a safer place, including automatic thermostat controls, stove shut-off products, and smart door alarms that show who’s at the door before answering.

If your parents don’t have a smartphone, maybe it’s time to get one since they can be used to control much of this technology. Identify a trusted friend, family member or a professional to help your parents learn how to use it. At some point, more care may be needed, but technology can help push back that need.

 

In the Beginning, You’ll Probably Wonder if You Can Even Do This

Your focus on your loved one’s needs will guide you past the “hair on fire” stage of caregiving by forming a deliberate plan of care. It can be stressful for all concerned, but you can do it. These checklists from AARP can help you stay on top of your loved one’s care and needs. If in-home equipment is necessary, you can get in-person or online help if needed to make sure it’s set up correctly. You can ensure that automated alerts are directed to the right place, that cameras, if used, are operational and regularly checked, and that the other basics of in-home tech infrastructure are up to date and working.

 

Next Steps

  1. Call a family meeting. Ask family members to read about how to design a personal care plan.
  2. Look at tools like CareZone (managing healthcare) or Lotsa Helping Hands (family task sharing). Then create a plan of care together.
  3. Determine what technology may be the most helpful in today’s situation. Agree on who will do what to improve safety, care, and connection in the home. Then get to work.
 
Laurie Orlov
Laurie is a tech industry veteran, writer, speaker, and founder of Aging in Place Technology Watch. She conducts market research, follows trends, and writes reports about technologies and services that enable boomers and seniors to remain longer in their home of choice.

1Caregiving in the U.S. 2015, National Alliance for Caregiving, 2015. Most recent data available.

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The material is provided for educational purposes only.

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