CAN TECHNOLOGY EASE THE BURDEN FOR CAREGIVERS?

Logo for Gary's Column - 8-22-13TECHNOLOGY AND YOU – GARY M. KAYE  GARY’S TECH TIP: There’s a near certainty that if you’re reading this then at some time in your life you will either be a caregiver or a care receiver.  The reality is that while we give a lot of thought and preparation to things like parenting, retirement, even our living wills, few of us are ready to take on the role of caregiving or for that matter, care receiving.

Places like disability home care services Melbourne have been supporting people with a disability since 2007 for individuals with multiple and complex needs across Victoria.

Now, a new report, done under the auspices of the National Alliance for Caregiving, brings together some of the leading organizations in the field in an effort to employ new technologies to ease the burden of caregiving.  One figure I recently saw concludes that the average adult caregiver is spending an average of 70 hours a week taking care of a loved one or close friend.  When added to the burdens of everyday living, that can be overwhelming.  But can technology really help?

The report begins by comparing caregiving to an iceberg.  While a small portion of caregiving is done by health professionals, the vast majority, the under the surface part of the iceberg, is done by family and friends.  And many of them have had no experience and no training before that burden is placed on them.  One conclusion of the panel’s report, entitled,”Catalyzing Technology to Support Family Caregiving” is that we need to develop a cadre of “caregiving coaches” who can help caregivers by connecting them to support groups, instructing them in management techniques, and generally help them draw on the huge knowledge base that’s already out there but that is almost impossible for the lay person to navigate.  For example, there are hundreds or perhaps thousands of caregiving apps on the market.  Many of them are helpful. Some are not.  But realistically, who has the time to explore them all?  A caregiving coach would theoretically stay on top of what’s going on in terms of apps, technology, and so on, to help caregivers navigate.

Co-author Rajiv Mehta, principal of Bhageera Consulting, says one of the recommendations from the roundtable is the creation of, “An Intelligent Family Care Assistant” to keep track of care metrics and responsibilities.  It would be a sort of Google Now for caregivers, providing everyone within a caregiving ecosystem with notices about upcoming appointments, care tasks, reports on the patient’s condition, etc.  The Care assistant could be an app, or a device, and could be tied to remote sensors, cameras, or medical monitors.

Mehta admits that in the course of the one day roundtable the group did not address every issue.  One gap is in preparation.  As a society we do almost nothing to prepare for the inevitability of caregiving.  So when that burden is thrust upon us most of us are ill-prepared.  But just as families discuss living wills and legacies, deciding in advance who is going to take on what role for the care of Mom and Dad can eliminate some of the trauma when that time does come.

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