5 Underutilized Technologies That Help Caregivers & Seniors to Age in Place
By 2030, baby boomers over the age of 65 will account for 1 in 5 Americans. With 72 million boomers, the cost for assisted living facilities continues to rise, leaving the majority (73%, to be exact) to stay in their own homes while they age in place.
Aging in place is possible for seniors with the help of technologies and a reliable support system from friends and family. Assisted living facilities rack up a whopping $46,000 per year per person (on the low end), which isn't affordable to the majority of families. Family members, including adult children, often have to step in and wear the caretaker, financial manager, and facility manager hats all at the same time.
As more and more adult children become caregivers, the need for supplemental information and safety technologies becomes necessary. Most are aware of dangerous areas in the home and how to address these dangers to prevent injuries and accidents while aging in place. However, many are unaware of the technologies available to help make caregiving safer and more relaxed. This post dives deeper into the specifics of these technologies and how they apply to caregiving for someone who is aging in place.
Underutilized Technologies for Caregivers
There are many different technologies available that help make aging in place safer and less stressful for the caregiver. Luckily, we live in a time where technology is readily available and serve a variety of purposes. We highly suggest using a few of these technologies to improve safety and comfort while caregiving.
Common technologies that are already being used for aging in place include medication dispensers, video monitors, motion sensors, and smartphones. These technologies are great for monitoring. The caretaker can be notified whenever their loved one enters a room, gets in or out of bed, or takes their medicine. GPS-enabled smartphones can even tell caregivers when a loved one wanders out of their designated area or does something differently.
Voice Control Technology
Voice-control technology is also pretty standard, but underutilized. Amazon's Alexa and Google Home can automate lights and appliances, control the thermostat, and answer questions without having to use a remote, change a dial, or type on a keyboard. Voice control technology can also prevent the need for an in-home assistant or caregiver to be physically present for everyday activities like turning the lights off or changing the channel on the TV.
Unfortunately, most voice-control technologies are not capable of placing emergency calls. That's where two-way voice-enabled personal emergency response systems come in, but we'll get to that in a moment.
Smart technologies include automated lighting, automatic appliance on/off switches, smart thermostat control, automatic door and window locks, and robot vacuum cleaners. Some offer two-way video feeds (like Facebook's Portal or the Ring doorbell). Others can integrate and connect all of these together in one easy-to-use system (Samsung's SmartThings).
Smart technologies create a sort of connected independence that allows caregivers to check in regularly without having to be there physically all the time. They provide peace of mind and more freedom and independence by keeping the home safe and their loved ones connected.
Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) may be the most underutilized type of technology on this list. To truly age in place, modifications must be made to the home to prepare for the worst possible outcomes. Aside from the standard fall-prevention tips, a PERS device is a necessary piece of technology that anyone who lives alone should have, regardless of age. Medical alert devices have been drastically improved since the "I've fallen and can't get back up" days. They're not just for at home anymore, either. In fact, they serve young people and active seniors, too!
Many people object to using PERS devices because they don't think they need them. However, this thinking is flawed. It's just like saying that you don't need home insurance because your house has never burned down. However, if your house did burn down, you'd lose everything without that insurance. The same can be applied to a medical alert device. Think of these devices as insurance against severe injury or death from an accidental fall. Falls are currently the leading cause of injury and death for older Americans, and one in 3 people over the age of 65 will suffer a fall. PERS devices can connect your loved one to someone who can help them in a matter of seconds.
Social technologies include care coordination platforms like CaringBridge that help to keep multiple caretakers connected and on the same page in regards to the needs of their loved one. It's great for adult children and their siblings to coordinate care for their senior parents. On the other hand, social engagement technology in the forms of apps connects seniors to friends, family, and other seniors. Regular socialization is critical for seniors to prevent loneliness and mental health deterioration. However, house calls and personal visits may not always be possible. GrandCARE can connect seniors with friends, family, church groups, book clubs, and more. There are also many options available for patients with Alzheimer's and Dementia. GeriJoy, displays an interactive animal and your pre-recorded messages to help hold a conversation and provide companionship to them.
Personal Emergency Response Systems Are Completely Necessary, Yet Underutilized
The majority of seniors preparing to age in place don't believe they need a medical alert device. However, a medical alert device can be the line between life and death. When you can call for help with the press of a button, you can get medical attention faster. Faster medical care leads to shorter recovery times at the hospital and money saved in medical bills. In fact, injuries that are responded to within an hour of the incident typically don't have to go into a rehab facility or hospital. The more time they spend on the ground without medical attention, the more severe and life-threatening a fall becomes, and the more expensive it will be to treat the injury.
Luckily, there are different devices available to suit the individual needs of just about everyone. Traditional home-based medical alert systems like FreedomAlert or GuardianAlert are perfect for seniors who live at home alone but are usually with someone when they go out to do errands. Younger, more active seniors who spend a lot of time on their own outside of the house will benefit from mobile PERS devices like the Notifi911+. They can also utilize GPS-enabled devices like the SentryPal that can tell the operator where they are even if they can't speak. Some devices can even be mounted in high-risk areas of the home in the event that the senior isn't good at keeping track of the device or wearing it all the time.
All in all, the system you choose isn't as important as ensuring that seniors have PERS devices available to them at all times. When you get admitted to the hospital, the first thing they give you is a call button in case you need help. The same thinking should be applied to a home where a senior will age in place.
LogicMark and Technology
Technology is the driving force in healthcare and safety. It makes our lives more comfortable and more connected while also helping to keep the people that matter to us the most safer. LogicMark provides two-way voice-enabled medical alert devices and is the leading supplier of low-cost medical alert devices to the VA. We're always working hard to understand the needs of our customers so we can provide more affordable technologies that help keep people safe. For more information about LogicMark or any of our devices, please get in touch with us today.