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Technology to Ease the Burden of Family Caregiving

The duties required of family caregivers today are very similar to those from 30 years ago. If you watched The Jetsons as a child, you probably assumed that by the time you reached this point in your life we’d have robots — like Rosie, that handy household assistant — to help us with everyday tasks as well as caregiver support. This is, of course, not how things have worked out.

The Future of Technology and Family Caregiving
The National Alliance for Caregiving explored the future of caregiving technology when it sponsored a recent roundtable discussion — the results of which are published in the paper “Catalyzing Technology to Support Family Caregiving.” This roundtable first discussed the ways in which today’s technology could be used to assist with caregiving duties. From there, participants began shaping ideas for new tech that could change the face of family caregiving.

There were a number of ideas tossed around, but few were more well-received than the concept of the “intelligent family care assistant.” Inspired by the iPhone’s Siri and Android’s Google Now, this program would work with a smartphone or tablet. It would be able to answer questions about the physical, mental, and emotional health of both caregivers and their loved ones. It might also work in conjunction with another concept discussed at the roundtable: wearable technology. This could include monitors that track everything from heart rate to blood pressure or blood glucose levels.

High-Tech Caregiver Support Today
While the family caregiver technology dreamed up by the roundtable could take a year or more to develop, there is technology available to help caregivers today. Choosing the tools that best meet your needs can help relieve stress and encourage independence in your loved one.

Medical alert systems are one of the most common ways seniors and their caregivers utilize modern technology. These wearable devices allow seniors to remain independent by granting them instant access to emergency assistance with the push of a button. GPS tracking technology is also becoming more common, and it is especially important for seniors with dementia or other cognitive impairments. Automatic medication dispensers aid in medication management, helping to ensure that errors in taking meds don’t lead to emergency department visits or hospital stays.

There are also smartphone and tablet apps that let you track important vital statistics. Such apps can be very important for seniors with certain health concerns. A senior with congestive heart failure, for example, can often avoid emergency room visits by keeping close tabs on his weight and modifying his eating habits if it goes above a set point.

While technology cannot yet fulfill the majority of your caregiving duties, there are many ways that it can provide support. Using the right high-tech tools can make your job easier and enable your loved one to stay healthy and more independent. With encouragement from the National Alliance for Caregiving, family caregiving technology may advance even further in the next few years.

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