Technology

How Technology is Changing Aging

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Technology has changed our world.  We access information instantaneously with a few key strokes, see our world through high power telescopes and satellites, and approach medicine with depth and efficiency enabling people to live longer and healthier.  Technology has also made many of the challenges of aging a bit easier to manage.  These new devices, programs, Apps and products are enabling people to stay at home safely and for families to monitor any changes or concerns. These advancements have fostered autonomy while simultaneously wrapping our loved ones in safety.

Most families’ concerns about aging are related to memory loss, confusion, falls and safety.  Below are some examples of how technology can alleviate or minimize risks related to these universal worries.

  • Medication errors: There are several Apps that allow families to remotely monitor whether someone has taken their medication.  MedOClock monitors administration times and calls a person with a gentle reminder if the medication is missed.   If you prefer to have your loved one prompted to take his medication with a phone call, there are products such as Pill Reminder Service.  If you would rather record your own voice Reminder Rosie could be right for you.  Many of these products keep track of medication, appointments and health care provider contact information as well should you need to share it with a healthcare professional.
  • Wandering: Nothing is scarier than thinking about your loved one leaving the home and getting lost. Smart Sole is a shoe insert that has a GPS. There are also wearable GPS products such as a watch made by ILoc.  These products permit families to know their loved one’s whereabouts at all times and set up perimeter alerts.
  • Kitchen safety: Are you finding burned pots on the stove and concerned about your loved one inadvertently starting a fire? You can find kettles that turn off automatically in most electronic and utility stores.  There are even specialized stovetops that use a sensor system and turn off when someone leaves the cooking area.  Visit This Caring Home for more information.
  • Falls: With the push of a button, products such as LifeLine, MyLive!y or Medical Alert  enables individuals to inform someone if they need help.
  • Overall functioning: Other unique products allow families to keep track of someone’s general functioning in the home with the use of sensors and/or alert systems. There are products that monitor getting in/out of bed with sensor pads such as from Patterson Medical.  Sensors, such as MyLive!y monitor the opening/closing of the refrigerator to gauge if someone is eating.  Products such as Be Close allow families to monitor a person’s daily routine in their home.  There is even clothing that can monitor body temperature and heartrate, though much of this clothing is designed for athletes.
  • Risk/Vulnerability with strangers/neighbors: Individuals with Dementia are at risk of being taken advantage by neighbors or strangers.  They can be convinced that they need a new roof or that their gutters need cleaning.  Most of the time, they are charged exorbitant costs and often the work is never done.  Consider installing cameras outside near each door so that families can have video of any visitors to the home.
  • Health concerns and communication with professionals: Technology has enabled family caregivers to keep track of medication, medical diagnoses, provider contact information and other necessary health information so that in a moment’s notice, caregivers who live locally or remotely can communicate effectively and accurately with health care professionals. Check out FootprintID and Zibdy.  Products such as Go Telecare allow for video conferencing consultation so that individuals have access to experts in any location.  With Tyze families can create a private network with which to communicate, share photos, and schedule appointments on behalf of a loved one.
  • Cognitive loss: There are many Apps that create opportunities for families to engage in activities that stimulate memories and other cognitive functioning such as DYNSEO and GreyMatters. Families and caregivers can build their own family memory book with products such as My Reflections.  These products help to foster meaningful connections within families as well as help a loved one with cognitive losses revisit his past.
  • General caregiver support: Families have unlimited access to on-line support communities for any topic imaginable. Visit AgingCare and The Caregiver Network.  The Dementia Caregiver App (ITunes) provides guidance for caregivers to assist them in the intervention and management of challenging symptoms related to reduced cognitive functioning.

Technology has been integral in preserving autonomy and integrity for those who require a little extra assistance and support.  These technological advancements have allowed us to benefit from real-time updates as to how our aging relatives are functioning.  However, never forget that the benefits of human contact and personal relationships far exceed any advantage that a device, App, or product could provide.

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About the Author

Stephanie Erickson , social worker

Stephanie Erickson, clinical social worker has had the honor of assisting families who were struggling with balancing their caregiving responsibilities, work, and their own family obligations. Stephanie is passionate about encouraging families to have proactive conversations about caregiving and counsels her families to establish a team approach to planning and intervening when supporting an aging relative. Stephanie continues with a clinical practice focused on Elder Care and provides training and consultation services to public and private entities. She is a regular guest on radio and T.V. and hosts her own radio program “Caregivers’ Circle” on WebTalkRadio.net. Download Stephanie's guide "Building Meaningful Connections With Aging Relatives in 4 Steps" here.

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