Year of the Caregiver at CES? We think so.
That is our take after spending two days walking the exhibit halls – a full couple million square feet worth.
In addition, 2016 was declared Year of the Caregiver at the Digital Health Summit, a two-day collection of presentations on health and technology related topics.
Hopefully it’s not the only one because we’ll need more years of celebrating family caregivers as they are asked to take on more care responsibility for a rapidly-growing senior population.
Focus on Senior & Family Caregiver Needs
What does “Year of the Caregiver” mean? Based on discussions we heard, it can mean different things to various individuals and groups.
While some seemed to feel it focuses on the needs of caregivers over those of the seniors for whom they care, we feel nothing could be further from the truth.
To the Senior Care Corner team, Year of the Caregiver means:
- The needs of seniors are being considered and work is being done toward meeting them. It is for the good of our senior loved ones, after all, that we become family caregivers;
- Innovation in products and services are targeted toward helping caregivers be more effective in the care being provided to senior loved ones; and,
- Focus is being put on the needs of caregivers themselves, recognizing family caregivers can’t be at their best in meeting the needs of senior loved ones unless their health and other needs are met.
Not only have we seen products and services that address all through of those points at CES this week, we’ve heard innovators, executives and marketers who “get it” when it comes to caregivers’ needs.
Family Caregivers Need Years of Focus
Why do we need this and many more years to be Year of the Caregiver? At least part of the answer is in the numbers.
According to AARP, there were 40 million people in the U.S. providing care without pay to seniors, those with disabilities, and others who need assistance.
As we have discussed in previous articles, the value of that unpaid care is in the billions of dollars (yes, with a “b”). That’s the cost we would otherwise realize if we were to pay for that same care.
According to a new AARP report, “Caregiving Innovation Frontiers,” by 2020 there will be 117 million Americans who will need care but only 45 million unpaid caregivers and 5 million paid caregivers to provide that care.
So, yes, we need many Years of the Caregiver!
Experts on Year of the Caregiver
The Digital Health Summit included a discussion by panelists with a lot of experience understanding and meeting the needs of both seniors and caregivers.
- Sanjay Khurana, VP of Caregiving Products and Services at AARP
- Vidya Raman-Tangella, Head of Innovation Center of Excellence, UnitedHealthcare
- David Inns, CEO of GreatCall
These panelists had a number of suggestions for meeting the needs of caregivers, though there was some discussion whether the needs of caregivers or seniors should be the primary focus (why not both??).
One point we really liked was a suggested goal for innovators and marketers – – do what you can to give time back to caregivers. That recognizes time is one of the most precious resources to family caregivers, who often find they have less than they need to accomplish everything they must. When caregivers have technology tools to ease their burden and solve some of their problems, they can gain back time.
There was also recognition, even at CES, technology alone can’t meet all the needs of caregivers. Yes, tools are needed to ease caregivers’ burdens, solve problems and give back time, but there are needs that can only be met by people.
Caregivers need safe places to connect with peers, both on and off line. They also need to be able to connect with experts and use their help to get over the emotional hurdles that go along with being caregivers.
Perhaps our favorite point was made by AARP’s Sanjay Khurana, who indicated there was too many giving caregivers crap and expecting them to buy it. He stated it was important for manufacturers to work with seniors and their caregivers to create solutions not to develop products for seniors or caregivers without any input or even knowledge if the product is needed.
That illustrates our impression about many products we’ve seen at CES over the last several years, including this one.
Areas of Opportunity in Meeting Caregivers’ Needs
AARP’s “Caregiving Innovation Frontiers” report lists six areas of opportunity in meeting caregivers’ needs, including those of seniors for whom they care, which we think do a good job of identifying where help is needed.
- Daily Essential Activities, such as meals, home care and transportation
- Health and Safety Awareness, including alerts regarding vital signs, diet and nutrition (a favorite of ours) and safety monitoring
- Care Coordination, which includes care planning, records and benefits management, and more
- Caregiver Quality of Life, such as respite care, health and wellness, and social support
- Social Well-being, such as community networking and life enrichment
- Transition Support, including home retrofits, legal assistance, and hospice planning
Yes, there are many providers of these services already, but not enough providers of the right services – quality services – to make a positive difference for seniors and family caregivers.
With relatively few caregivers to meet the needs of so many seniors in the future and everything needed to aid caregivers in supporting the success aging of seniors, it’s clear we need many Years of the Caregiver!