The age of technology can provide us as family caregivers with a great amount of information and data to help us care for our senior loved ones.
Technology gives us numerous ways to learn about their disease and how it impacts them, what treatments are recommended, their medications, medical procedures, and even provides a map to the doctor’s office.
With technology we can help organize loved ones’ medical documents, keep track of their health history and medications, schedule their doctors’ appointments and track their vital signs.
There are tech devices that can help prevent wandering, falls and burning the house down, as well as letting us know when our seniors don’t take their medications, get up too many times in the middle of the night or don’t open the refrigerator for breakfast.
And the best seems yet to come!
Tech Benefits Caregivers Too
Not only is technology helping extend our capabilities as caregivers but it is helping to improve our own lives as caregivers.
Technology can also help us to stay in touch with other family members, giving them up to the minute communication on our senior loved ones.
We can use technology to share our family photos, talk face to face, even across the globe, and ‘talk’ with people we never met about how to overcome many of our caregiving dilemmas.
Tech is getting ever more convenient for us, too. Our smartphones make using the technology even easier. We can get real time information about the lives of our senior loved ones via our smartphones. We can get alerts about their daily routines, their safety, set their thermostat, and even take a look at the person knocking at their door from our smartphones – – no matter where we are at the time.
Getting Information from the Internet
In an effort to find ways to use technology to learn even more about our senior’s health, we put together this list of a few (there are many more examples depending on the type of information you find helpful) online calculators that can give you interesting and useful information.
Some of the information you can gain will help you plan for the future and make action plans to improve your senior’s aging and financial status.
When you visit those sites, you will have to enter some personal data and whether you choose to do that is up to you (please exercise caution if using an insecure wifi connection). The descriptions of the calculators come directly from the sponsoring organizations.
- Health Care Costs Calculator from AARP
Use the Health Care Costs Calculator to estimate your health care expenses in retirement and the costs associated with different health issues, and to explore how much you can save by improving your health.
- AARP’s Retirement Calculator
Use the AARP Retirement Calculator to plan your financial future so you can retire when — and how — you want. You’ve got options. This calculator will help you discover what they are.
The Living to 100 Life Expectancy Calculator uses the most current and carefully researched medical and scientific data in order to estimate how old you will live to be.
How old is your heart age? Did you know that your heart age can be older than your actual age?
Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on height and weight that applies to adult men and women. BMI is an estimate of body fat and a good gauge of your risk for diseases that can occur with more body fat. The higher your BMI, the higher your risk for certain diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, gallstones, breathing problems, and certain cancers.
Is your memory normal? Your report will include a science-based brain health score and a personalized plan for what to do next.
Other Electronic Resources for Caregivers
Using our computers, tablets or smartphones to access the internet in order to help us be better caregivers is simply a part of everyday life now. We can use our devices to
- organize our medical data into spreadsheets, tables and charts if we desire
- create medication lists that are easy to update with changes
- keep a journal of symptoms, medical histories, procedures and doctors’ names and contact information
- scan in our senior loved one’s documents such as advance directives, test results and insurance information
- keep a log of vital signs
- hook up to apps that can tell our seniors’ healthcare team this key information
and SO much more!
In addition to health calculators, there are many health quizzes that you can do online in an interactive manner to help you learn more about a disease process or how to prevent symptoms. You enter data or answer questions and instantly get results including action steps about what to do if needed. One such online quiz is real age. You can find out your seniors’ ‘real age’ to see if they are healthier than their chronological age or are aging faster than expected.
Another convenient way to use technology to gain valuable information is through locators. There are locators of every kind available online, on our tablets and our smartphones. We can locate not just a restaurant or gas station nearby but a doctor, dentist, elder law attorney, flu clinic, hospital, senior care facility and a place to buy whatever we need for our seniors.
Tech Helping Us Keep Loved Ones Safe
Technology can also help us keep our senior loved ones safe while enabling them to continue living independently if they want.
Home monitoring devices that we can track remotely via smartphones or computers that will tell us if they have fallen, get up in the night, move through the house often enough, turn on the stove, keep the temperature comfortable or let someone in the front door.
We can use GPS devices in their phone, implanted in their clothing or shoes or even under the skin to find them if they wander.
Personal electronic response systems (PERS) that can alert first responders that our senior loved ones need emergency help. These devices can alert us as well via our smartphones.
There are computer systems that allow paid caregivers to report to family caregivers how the day went, if the pills were taken or if meals were eaten.
Great Technology Promise for the Future
There are a number of digital tools that are available now and many, many more coming soon to market, like robots (yes, robots) that will help us help our senior loved ones. Wherever possible, family caregivers should take advantage of some of these devices to make more of your time available to do the things that technology can’t, such as give a gentle reassurance through your personal presence, your soft voice and kind words, and your hand holding.
If these devices and systems and shortcuts make it easier for you to stay healthy yourself and make the days of caregiving easier, you may find they are worth the cost and effort they may take to initiate. No one can replace you but technology can support you in your role of family caregiver, making life better for both your senior loved one and you.
What technology or shortcuts like calculators have you used, or are using now, did you find useful?
What are you hoping technology will do in the future?