Senior Care Technology Tools & Tips

Check out another special feature from our guest blogger, Lydia Chan, co-creator of Alzheimer's Caregiver, which provides resources to help caregivers...

Rather than moving your loved one to an assisted living facility, there may be an alternative intermediate step that involves keeping the senior home, while utilizing care services and technology.

Senior care expenses continue to increase as older adults live longer lives. Often, a senior's children and caregivers feel that their only option is to move their parents to assisted living facilities. Sometimes daily nurse or attendant care might not even be necessary, but the adult child's lives may make frequent visits with their parents difficult. 

The national median rate for assisted care rose to $3,600 a month in 2016 for a one-bedroom unit.  Major metropolitan areas can see this rate almost double.  The cost of having daily aid and attendance health care service in the home can reach $3,000 a month.  For seniors who need basic assistance and want to remain at home these services are an attractive option. Depending on the amount of care required, they can be a more affordable option as well.  For example, in Washington D.C., a resident could spend $3,000 on care services and $2,787 on their mortgage and still spend less than the $5,933 it would take to live in an assisted living facility.

For those seniors who do not need regular care, or who need only be checked on every once in awhile, remaining at their homes might be the most sensible step.

Keeping a senior in their residence, or “aging in place”,  is an important option to consider. A primary drawback of admission to an assisted living facility is the sense of defeat that a senior can feel from what they perceive as a forceful removal from their homes. Seniors want stability and dignity and often resist proposed moves.

There are several technological solutions for improving senior quality of life which allow them to stay in their own homes. This tech complements at-home care that can be provided by visiting nurse services and family members. And often, this technology can alleviate pressure on family members who can track and view a senior's activity remotely throughout the day. 

Smart home cameras and appliances are an example of this innovation in senior care. Web cameras can be positioned to record outside and inside areas of a senior's home for security and safety.  Smart thermostats are programmable and accessible remotely, so caregivers can even know the inside temperature of a loved one's home. While some may see this kind of technology as being invasive, the cameras are easy to position in ways that preserve privacy while still providing a security function.

Medical alert monitors are other examples of senior tech. These are wearable devices that can trigger an alert after a fall and can provide medical monitoring, as well.

Today, everyone has a smartphone, including older people, and they are useful tools for tracking and interacting with a senior. For example, an iPhone with the Find my Friends feature activated and FaceTime video chatting can be an essential link between a caregiver and a senior. If the senior is still driving, several vehicle monitoring applications can track location and driving habits.

Technology doesn’t have to all be about monitoring though. These tools can also facilitate communication and provide entertainment. Grandparents often fawn over their grandkids, and video calling is a way for these two generations to connect daily. Tablets can be loaded with apps that stimulate cognition, such as brain teasers, card games, word puzzles and musical instrument tutorials. Social media can be a means for seniors to connect with and be kept up to date about old friends and family members.

Thanks to technology, senior care is no longer limited to costly nursing home care.

Through monitoring and entertainment, technology connects and enlivens seniors, and extends their ability to lead more independent lives.

About the Author:
Lydia Chan is an advocate for seniors facing Alzheimer's, offering tips and advice to help loved ones and caregivers improve their standard of living. She developed to provide helpful resources to the community-at-large and to support our elders.