Welcome back to our discussion of technology and health care! If you missed last week’s article about reluctance to use technology, information management apps, and medication management tools, you can view it at www.keystoneelderlaw.com under “Blogs,” or on Facebook.
If your loved one has a chronic condition that requires medical management, remote patient monitoring systems can be used to obtain and track information such as blood pressure, weight, blood glucose, and oxygen saturation. Wireless technology makes it possible to have readings recorded and stored automatically – no more lists on scraps of paper! Caregivers can easily view the data via a computer or mobile device, as well as receive alerts based on programmed parameters for notification. Is your loved one’s blood glucose level too low or too high? Find out right after the check is done. Or was the scheduled check not completed at all? You can receive notification about that too!
For individuals who may be beginning to experience symptoms of forgetfulness or dementia, additional monitoring systems are available to allow caregivers to track activity levels. These systems can include sensors to detect motion in certain rooms of the house, pressure such as weight on a bed, room or outdoor temperature, or the opening of household doors or cabinets. I recently viewed a demonstration of this medical device and sensor technology by a new company in our area called CareSpace (www.CareSpace-LLC.com), the local vendor of a system which was developed by GrandCare Systems (www.grandcare.com). A touchscreen monitor in the client’s home can be used for a video chat between the caregiver and client, to track sensor activity, play games to stimulate brain function, provide visual and verbal prompts to remind the client to take medication (specifying the type of medication and even showing a picture of it) or complete a check such as a daily weigh-in. All data is stored on an internet care portal for management by a remote caregiver. This is only one example of a type of monitoring system with multiple features and capabilities designed to help seniors remain in their homes.
One of the greatest challenges today in remote patient monitoring is not the technology itself, but the cost. Insurance companies may be reluctant to provide reimbursement for new products, leading to fewer customers who are able or willing to foot the bill to see how these innovations can improve their health and empower them to maintain their independence. As with any new technology, costs should decrease as devices become more mainstream. Consumers will need to weigh the desire and ability to remain at home with the support of new technology against the potential costs of both the home technology and a move to a health care community or facility.
Additional information about technology specifically for senior care can be found at www.geritech.org. This site provides a forum about current technology, reviews of available programs and products, and suggestions for new development. While posts are written primarily by clinicians, everyone who is interested in this topic is invited to use the site.
The benefits of using technology in home health care and caregiving are enormous. Improved management of information, timely access to specific medical data, tools to simplify health care tasks, and the ability to see and communicate with a loved one remotely can prevent unnecessary hospital and physician visits, save time and money, reduce stress, and facilitate improved health and well-being. Your senior may be reluctant to embrace “new-fangled gadgets,” so start with one idea, and try to find another senior who can share a positive personal experience with the product or program. Hopefully, these few resources mentioned can jump start your search for the right technological tool for your needs.
Karen Kaslow, RN, BSN
Elder Care Coordinator
Keystone Elder Law