Long before the Affordable Care Act became law, insurance companies were cutting costs by, among other things, sending patients home earlier in the recuperative process. Hospital stays of three to four days could be reduced to 23 hours. As insurance began paying less in the 1990s, hospital layoffs rose.
Today, much of patient care relies on family caregiving. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, “The vast majority of healthcare is actually provided by families, not by healthcare professionals.” And that means you, dear caregiver.
Enter Silicon Valley
The prospect of caring for an aging loved one can feel overwhelming. Juggling the responsibilities required of a caregiver, such as maintaining her appointments, tending to her needs at home, and taking responsibility for her finances while taking care of yourself and your family can seem impossible. But there is hope. Software developers have turned their attention to innovations in smartphone apps and Web development — and that means great advances for family caregiving are taking place even now.
The National Alliance for Caregiving has identified five existing areas where technology supports caregivers:
- Information/Education for Caregivers – Just a couple of decades ago, information and education for family caregiving was nonexistent on the Internet. Today, the Internet is your first stop, with a number of resources providing webinars and phone-based learning services for caregiving. The National Institutes of Health offer free education for caregivers as well as a list of educational resources. For a comprehensive list of resources on family caregiving to assist you in achieving and maintaining balance in your life, visit the CareGiver Partnership.
- Assistance/Access to Resources – Sites such as Home Instead help with finding home care, and other sites can help you find independent living, assisted living, and nursing home care.
- Family Coordination/Communication – In addition to Google Calendar, Evernote, and Microsoft OneNote, CarePartners Mobile, a free app from Philips Lifeline, can also help your family coordinate care for an aging relative. CaringBridge is another option for large family and friend networks. Instead of repeating the same update every time the phone rings, invite people to your CaringBridge site, post updates, and receive replies on the site. This can save you hours each day (not to mention save your voice).
- Supporting Day-to-Day Care – Online shopping, grocery delivery, and senior ride-sharing options remove much of the burden of day-to-day chores. While ride-sharing services are relatively new, they are springing up across the nation. Search on the Internet for “elder ride sharing” and “senior ride sharing” plus your senior’s city or county, and you’ll find a plethora of family caregiving apps dealing with day-to-day care. Search for “caregiving apps,” and you’ll be amazed at the number and types of free apps you’ll find to simplify your life.
- Remote Monitoring – There’s an app for everything, including blood pressure, respiration, and heart rate. Plus, today’s personal medical alert devices, such as Philips GoSafe, include geolocation and fall-detection technologies.
Access to information, resources, and support for family caregiving have come of age. There’s finally widespread recognition that caregivers need support — and a wealth of technology-based solutions whose aim is to provide it.