7 Great CES 2018 Themes for Family Caregivers of Seniors

CES 2018 — the big innovation showcase — is history, the sore feet are rested, and we’ve had a chance to ponder the implications of everything we encountered.

It is still exhausting to think of it all!

We found a lot to like for family caregivers of senior adults, some of it here now, much more to be available in the months and years to come. There were also a number of things about which we want to learn more (and will) so we can provide you deeper insights.

Rather than discuss individual products or ideas now, we want to highlight 7 theme areas we found that reflect positive developments for family caregivers.

  1. Recognition of the roles and importance of family caregivers
  2. Seniors’ needs on the mind of autonomous vehicle developers
  3. Voice control of connected devices in the home
  4. Innovations in fall prevention
  5. Insights into a new model for family caregiving
  6. Robot support for caregivers getting closer
  7. Medicare playing role in care innovation

Some of those areas were anticipated by us, but others were pleasant surprises, but that is the nature of CES.

Our Week at CES 2018

CES 2018 started for us before the official start, with the media activities. It would be easy to brush aside the Media Day activities as commercials for the big CES exhibitors — and much of it is — but they also provide insight into some of their offerings that we don’t get on the crowded (truly an understatement) exhibit floors.

CES conference sessions were once high on our agenda and some started out that way this year. What we found, unfortunately, is that too many conference sessions have effectively become advertising opportunities for the sponsors and clients of the companies putting on the sessions. Even where there is information of real value, many sessions seemed an effort to put as many speakers as possible on stage, leaving little opportunity for more than soundbites.

The real benefit of CES is the ability to interact with exhibitors and their technology one-on-one on the exhibit floor. While that has become more of a challenge as the crowd has grown, we enjoy learning not just about the technology but the story behind it and plans for the future.

We also like to look for what innovations might be getting headlines in the future or highlights at CES in future years — and which things might never be seen again. There were a number of items we chalked up as solutions in search of a problem to solve, but you never know when a light bulb might go off for one of those innovators, who could transform their tech into the next big thing.

Recognition of the Roles & Importance of Family Caregivers

One theme we’ve found to be growing in recent years at CES is recognition by technology companies of not just the needs of seniors but the roles and importance of their family caregivers.

All through CES — in media events, conference sessions, and when we talked with exhibitors in their booths — there was talk about family caregivers. The word is out about the numbers of family caregivers and how their roles will continue to grow in importance as populations continue to get older.

One thing especially gratifying for us is the number of tech companies that reached out to Senior Care Corner® to get OUR attention for their products and ideas. We plan to stay in contact with them to keep you updated on tech developments.

Autonomous Vehicles & the Needs of Seniors

We have discussed a number of times how autonomous vehicles, including self-driving cars, will help seniors maintain their independence. Recognition of that is only growing among developers, but there is more.

At CES we heard a great deal about autonomous transit options, often in the context of smart cities, and how they can accommodate seniors and their schedules.

Probably the most prominent autonomous option was Accessible Olli. A partnership between IBM, Local Motors, and the CTA Foundation are striving to make Olli the most accessible self-driving vehicle, in part with seniors’ needs in mind.

Voice Control in the Connected Home

Voice control was one of the overwhelming themes of CES for seemingly everyone with whom we spoke.

What does that mean? It refers to the ability to control everything from lights to door locks to, well, seemingly everything in the home by using your voice, via one of the “personal assistants.”

You might be surprised at the number and types of devices you will be able to control without even lifting a finger.

At CES 2018, Google took the battle for voice supremacy to Amazon’s Alexa, and no wonder. We have encountered numerous home controls over the last year touting their ability to interface with users via Alexa – – and Google wants in with its Google Assistant.

Interestingly, most connected products tout their compatibility with both assistants and are striving to be open systems usable by all manufacturers.

We have been looking closely at Alexa for a while and realize we will have to see how it stacks up against the Google offering and report our findings to you. No, we haven’t forgotten about Siri (she is on our mobile devices) but we didn’t hear too much about her from CES exhibitors.

Innovations in Fall Prevention

For years we have heard much about technology that helps seniors who have fallen, primarily with notification of family members or first responders as well as sensing devices and wondered when there would be technology to help prevent senior falls.

The first fall for many seniors is often a life-changer (not in a good way) so preventing falls is high on our list of tech priorities for seniors and family caregivers.

At CES 2018, we talked with a number of people working to bring to market technology intended do just that. There will be shoes and other wearables that will signal when there is a change with potential to lead to a fall, such as a variation in how a senior is walking, and provide notification before the fall occurs. Monitoring devices that pattern activity is also intended to be more proactive with home safety.

In the meantime, we found a very interesting a product developed by Helite. It is a belt warn by seniors containing air bags that inflate when a fall is detected to cushion the landing and protect fragile hips (and provides notification to caregivers of the fall). The belt is worn as you see in the photo on the left and C02 tanks deploy during a fall to open hip protectors.

Insights Into a New Family Caregiving Model

Family caregivers often feel like we’re struggling on our own, a situation that has to change as our population continues to age. At CES we learned of a new model of caregiving that could greatly improve things for both seniors and family caregivers.

We had a chance to talk with Tom Riley, President and CEO of Seniorlink, about a collaborative model they have developed, which combines the human touch with technology. He talked about a caregiving team, with the family caregiver as the team leader, something we found very appealing.

There is a lot more to tell about Seniorlink and what it could mean for family caregiving, so we plan to explore it in-depth in a future article.

Robot Support for Family Caregivers

We saw literally hundreds of robot across CES 2018, many of them cute toys or companions (which, to be fair, is a caregiving role), but none that seemed near ready to provide a true supporting role for seniors or family caregivers.

Nothing we saw at CES seemed to approach the capability of the CareBot™, the robotic caregiver from Martin Spencer and Gecko Systems, which has been tested in a home care environment.

We were still encouraged by the intentions and approach of some developers and particularly impressed by AvatarMind. They have a robot, iPal, that seems to have real potential. They told us they realize it is not yet a “caregiver” but are taking steps in that direction, introducing it into senior care settings and learning the capabilities that would provide real value.

iPal is one robot we are going to be following closely and even considering for a trial of our own, while we continue to watch the entire field for developments.

Medicare Playing a Role in Care Innovation

For several years we have noted the innovations in home health devices and other technology coming from France, often wishing their devices were available in the US.

From our conversations with French firms, we have learned one of the drivers of their innovation abundance is the role played by their government, which is the result of its role in the nation’s healthcare system.

Yes, we realize the role of government with healthcare is an issue that divides the US, but that doesn’t mean it can’t provide a role in care innovation.

We heard from several at CES 2018 their innovation has benefited from investment (in one form or another) by Medicare. Yes, that Medicare. It makes sense if you think about it, as healthcare innovation means better care for our seniors and lower cost for Medicare, a wonderful win-win.

This is another area into which we are going to delve more deeply and report more in the future.

Another way Medicare is working to improve care through technology innovation is by reimbursing healthcare providers for reading the data obtained from seniors’ digital health devices.

Technology Future Bright for Family Caregivers

All of this means the hope we carried into CES 2018 was very much justified, with a lot of reasons for family caregivers to be confident technology will aid them in caring for senior loved ones.

Clearly we were able only to scratch the surface in discussing much of what we found and what it can mean.

We are excited about what is ahead of us in learning more to keep you on top of the innovation and are already planning the work ahead of us in the coming weeks and months.

Stay tuned!