Are you looking for ways to stay organized or have easier access to information in order to provide more efficient and effective care for your loved one? Whether your loved one lives with you in the same house, or across the country, advances in technology now provide individuals still at home with a variety of methods to obtain, record, and share both medical and nonmedical information with their caregivers. Tools also exist that help individuals complete daily “medical” tasks, and thus maintain and improve their safety and general health. Here are some ideas to help you get started.
Do you know a senior who is apprehensive about using technology due to lack of knowledge or fear of the unknown? Check out Generation Connect (www.gen-connect.com), a local company that “seeks to bridge the gap” between younger family members who are tech savvy and older ones who may be reluctant to try technology. The company focuses on the use of iPads because they are portable, secure, user friendly, and easily customized to an individual’s wants, needs, and interests. Personalized training is provided by written guides, instructional videos, and hands-on workshops. It’s never too late to learn something new!
One of the most basic factors in how stressful we perceive our lives to be is how we manage information. Every day we are bombarded with information, which can be useful or not, new or old, simple or complicated. Caregivers face an additional challenge as they try to manage information not only for themselves, but also for their loved one. Keeping things in their heads, and journaling or making To-Do Lists on paper may work for some people. Others may find various apps for their mobile devices a more efficient method of keeping track of contacts, appointments, medications, general tasks, medical diagnoses, communications, etc. There are a multitude of general task management apps available, but some exist that are designed specifically for caregivers. Two of these, www.carezone.com and www.unfrazzledcare.com are free, and focus on organizing, managing, and sharing tasks and information. A number of apps specifically for managing medications also are available. Ten of these apps are described briefly on the site www.nannyjobs.net.
Accurate medication administration is a common issue for many seniors. One statistic I found is that for people over the age of 65, 30% of all hospital visits are related to medication noncompliance. A variety of products are available to help combat this problem. One unique product is GlowCaps (www.glowcaps.com). These caps fit standard medication bottles, and remind folks to take their medications by the presence of light and sound. A microchip embedded in the lid uses the AT&T mobile broadband network to automatically record medication use, order refills, and notify caregivers of missed doses. A monthly service plan is required. Another type of tool is a medical alarm watch. These watches can be programmed to beep and display a visual message at scheduled times. Be sure to pick a watch that has large enough text for your loved one to read. For those who are hard of hearing, watches with vibrating alarms are also available. Epill (www.epill.com) has a variety of watch styles available, as well as a third type of tool: secure medication dispensers. Medication dispensers can be used by individuals who have trouble managing pill bottles or have complicated medication regimens. The dispenser is filled for a period of time (such as weekly or monthly), and programmed to dispense the medication at specific times of the day. Alarms are available, as well as notification of a remote caregiver if a dose is missed. The medication cannot be tampered with once in the dispenser. Dispensers also come in a variety of styles and have different features, depending on the individual’s needs and abilities.
Next week we will continue our exploration of ways that technology can help improve the health and safety of seniors in their homes, and make caregiving easier for family members and health professionals. As families gather together for the holidays, take advantage of the opportunity to discuss the needs that are present in your own lives, and brainstorm solutions to help make 2014 a happy and healthy year for family members of all ages!
Karen Kaslow, RN, BSN
Elder Care Coordinator
Keystone Elder Law