Using Healthcare Technology for Your Aging in Place Loved Ones

The preponderance of healthcare technology in the home is growing by leaps and bounds, and especially those items made for the parents of baby boomers. With the start of boomers turning 65 on the first of this year, there is a growing aging population that knows about this technology and welcomes it for their parents who are aging in place. The older generation, the parents, however, may not be as likely to choose it, as they may feel that web and cell-based information invades their privacy or limits their independence. Other barriers to choosing technology in the home may be that the expense is cost-prohibitive.

Some of the home-based health technologies available today include complete wireless systems that will monitor the movement of an individual, provide fall detection and a panic button, and report medical issues such as temperature and blood pressure. Other devices monitor just one or two of the above separately. In addition, pill-taking reminders, symptom and patient record systems, video phones and caregiving assistance tools can be found from numerous manufacturers.

A study regarding healthcare technologies by the National Alliance for Caregiving and UnitedHealthcare was recently released at the annual Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas this year. It showed that in a study of 1,000 family caregivers, two thirds welcome new devices that can help them with their duties. These people had all used some form of technology to help them out and provide at least five hours of unpaid service per week. The ages of the respondents was split by 47% over 50 and 53% under 50.

Here are the top three devices that 70% or more of those surveyed said would be most helpful:
- Personal Health Record Tracking – A computerized, web or cell-based system that tracks the health condition of the care recipient, including medications, current readings such as temperature and blood pressure, and manages test results and patient history.
- Caregiving Coordination System – An automated record that lets family members coordinate physician appointments and work together to organize caregiving assignments for the recipient.
- Medication Support Systems – A device that notifies the care recipient when it is time to take prescriptions and supplements and dispenses them into a handy container. The system-supported device can also notify caregivers when a dose has not been taken.

Baby boomers realize the benefits of health technologies, especially when they are not in the same city or cannot get to the care recipient on a regular basis. The survey respondents said that the advantages of the systems include saving time, making caregiving easier logistically, making the recipient feel safer, feeling more effective as a caregiver and reducing caregiving stress. While some of the elderly parents may be resistant to the health technology, over time, baby boomers will be looking to these solutions for themselves, and realize the benefits over the barriers.