The growing cadre of care providers relies heavily on technology to help manage senior care responsibilities. That’s the conclusion of a Pew Research Center survey entitled “Family Caregivers are Wired for Health” released in June 2013 that surveyed 3,014 U.S. adults and explored the relationship between care providers and their use of technology.
Demographics and Trends
First, let’s look at the connection between an aging population and the growth of senior care providers:
- The over-65 population is expected to rise from 12.4 percent in 2000 to 19 percent in 2030.
- A previous study found that 47 percent of adults anticipate caregiving in the future, which implies an increase as the population ages.
- Caregiving crosses all demographics — racial, gender, economic, etc. Forty percent of adult women function in a caregiving role, and 37 percent of men function in the role.
Bottom line: More adults are providing care for their loved ones. As baby boomers age, these trends will continue.
Another trend: care providers are harnessing technology to help care for aging loved ones. The survey found that participants use technology to assist them in four areas: They look up medical and drug information, manage medication, automate or simplify tasks (including time management), and connect with others.
Looking up Medical and Drug Information
Your senior probably has medical issues — 75 percent of seniors have a chronic medical condition, and 36 percent of adults provide care to seniors with significant health issues.
The first line of defense is the doctor, but the study revealed that care providers rely more heavily on the Internet for medical information than the population at large (86 percent versus 78 percent of non-caregivers), and 46 percent of care providers try to figure out a diagnosis versus 28 percent of non-care providers.
If you rely on the Internet for medical and drug information, it’s important to use reputable sites and to use the information for research purposes only before checking with the doctor. Reliable medical sites include
- Mayo Clinic offers a symptom checker, information on diseases and conditions, drugs and supplements and tests and procedures
- Centers for Disease Control
- The National Institutes of Health
- University sites (.edu URL extensions)
It’s also likely that your senior is taking multiple medications, and you may be in charge of administering the medication. The survey showed 39 percent of caregivers manage medication for their loved ones. Only 7 percent, however, manage medication with an online tool or smartphone app. But technology can help, and it’s more reliable than the “scrap of paper and kitchen timer” method:
For example, the Alzheimer’s Association offers Balance for the iPhone. For $3.99, you can download the app, which not only manages medications but also includes communication with family members and the doctor, caregiving tips, etc. Google also offers a basic free Pill Reminder app for Android smartphones.Walgreens and CVS offer free apps for medication refills.
Simplifying Time Management
Time is in short supply, and you’re constantly juggling tasks. Enlist family members’ help with a shared Google Calendar. Set up a family calendar, and carve out time for yourself when others need to step up and help you. Let the calendar help you persuade others to do their share.
Connecting With Others
With little time for social contact, you may feel isolated. It helps to empathize and exchange ideas with others in similar situations, and technology lets you connect with other caregivers in online forums and social media. It’s a great way to find support. In addition to Facebook, Twitter, etc., here are two resources for care providers:
- Join the discussion at Caregiver Action Network to connect with other care providers.
- When you feel frazzled, restore your balance with the interactive Emotional Self-Help Toolkit from Helpguide.org.
Introducing technology into your daily routine can lighten the load of managing your senior’s care. The Internet not only saves time and offers support, but it can also act as your “alterbrain.” New resources are coming online every day, so be sure to search for them and let these tools provide you with a bit more leisure time.