Innovation that matters to you

Addressing the caregiver burden with connected devices

How the Internet of Aging Well Things can revolutionize senior care

One thing you should know about me: I am a “sandwich generation” caregiver.  I have a full time job, three busy children, and an ailing father.  My father suffers from emphysema and was diagnosed with Stage 3 lung cancer last year. His care plan includes chemotherapy for three weeks at a time with one off in between, a visit from a home healthcare aide to check on the fluid in his lungs and many medications.
His frailty, strength, cognitive acuity and, hearing are changing but he’s a real trooper – he is still fairly independent and enjoys his life in his own home which is several hours away from me and my brothers. Of course, we worry about him when we’re not there; we go through the trials and tribulations that many caregivers do like worrying about his driving, whether he will fall or have a health incident, whether he is eating well, and if he is taking his medications.

And my brothers and I are in good company. There are over 34 million informal caregivers in the United States today, facing pressures as we ensure our loved ones are safe and aging well. On average, this group spends 20 hours per week providing care such as transportation, managing medications and coordinating care[1]. We miss work to handle issues when they arise.  In fact, the CDC reported that 37 percent of us are reducing hours or quitting jobs to take care of loved ones. Caregiving requires a time commitment and many important decisions, and can include stressful financial issues to manage.   Families plan for paying for college, weddings and other major life events, and now more than ever it is important to consider caregiving costs and responsibilities as well.  

 

The good news is that the digital transformation in the healthcare industry, connected devices and the era of the Internet of Aging Well Things can help with caregiving responsibilities.  With November being National Family Caregivers Month, what better time to highlight some of the technologies that can help improve how we care for our seniors.

As people look to defray or postpone costs related to aging while dealing with the realities of living with chronic diseases, increasing frailty, cognitive decline, and medication adherence issues, all of which exacerbate the risk of falling, there is an opportunity for technology to help address these needs. Poor medication adherence, for example, is to blame for up to 69 percent of all medication-related hospital admissions in the United States[1]. And it’s been proven that more than half of all older Americans do not take their medications as prescribed[2]. But with connected dispensing solutions, 96 percent of chronic disease patients are able to adhere and take medications as prescribed[3].
Medical alert devices are another technology that is making seniors’ lives, and those of caregivers, that much simpler. My father, for example, has a Lifeline GoSafe with AutoAlert  Fall detection, the medical alert device, which will automatically summon help, if it detects a fall[4]. It will also find him if he is out somewhere[5] and has an issue and needs assistance.  Even if he is disoriented, he can get the help he needs because of the sophisticated locating technologies. I have the peace of mind in knowing that he will get timely help and I will be kept informed along the way no matter where I am in my busy day.

Additionally, other technology solutions like virtual doctors or real-time monitoring and predictive analytics can determine when your loved ones are more likely to fall or are in need of some type of assistance. These tools transform how we approach caring for our aging population, as well as help to decrease stress and the costs for caregivers, healthcare providers, and the insurer. Predictive analytics, for example, have the ability to give clinicians or me an early warning that something is up so that we can adjust our schedules to ensure his health and safety.

 

The life of a caregiver can be a rollercoaster ride – with joys, anxieties and challenges. But it is a gift --and I am happy to do it and I am thankful that technology makes it easier on me, my family and my Dad.

 

[1] Caregiving in the United States; National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with AARP; November 2009

[2] National Conference of State Legislatures. LegisBrief, July 2010.

[3] Osterberg L, Blaschke T. “Adherence to Medication.” New Engl.J. Med., Aug 4, 2005; 353(5): 487-97.

[4] Philips (Medido press release)

[5] The AutoAlert Help Button detects greater than 95% of many types of falls, based on the number of undetected falls reported to Philips Lifeline by U.S. AutoAlert subscribers from January 2012 through July 2012. Undetectable falls can include a gradual slide from a seated position — such as from a wheelchair — which may not register as a fall. If able, seniors should always push the button if they need help. Button signal range may vary due to differing environmental factors.

[6] With GoSafe, coverage outside the home is provided where AT&T wireless network coverage is available.

Kimberly O’Loughlin

Senior vice president and general manager of Philips

Healthcare, Home Monitoring. She is responsible for leading a global business serving seniors and their caregivers with safety, health and connected solutions and services.

 

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