Tuesday, 8 March 2016

TECHNOLOGY AND THE ELDERLY: A NEW ERA

A Wonderful Guest Post by Ron Burg of alreadyhomecare.com.  Check out these new tech products for seniors and caregivers. Thank you, Ron!



As your parents and loved ones age, younger generations in the family are often left worried about the care and well-being of their elderly. Forcing your parent to pack his/her bags and enter a nursing home can seem cold. Plus, just because your parent(s) may need some extra assistance, doesn’t necessarily mean an over-packed and understaffed nursing home would be of help.

Perhaps you could stop by your loved one’s house a few times a week to help with daily duties and tasks. However, if you live far away, you know this is not always a viable option. 

Determining how to properly assist your aging loved one can cause plenty of stress and emotional turmoil in your life. You want to help, but you do not want to overstep any boundaries or take away your parents’ autonomy.

But, on the other hand, if your parents truly need assistance in their daily lives, you have to take some sort of measures. While, for some, moving either yourself or your parent across a state or the country is reasonable, for others that is just not in the cards.

So, what are you to do?

In today’s ever-evolving tech-savvy world, the answer could be much simpler than you previously thought. A slew of new tech innovations intends to keep the elderly healthy and connected with loved ones, without them moving or entering a nursing home.

New Technology on the Rise
Technology is not just for the sake of having a cool new toy to play with (although we all remember how cool it was to hold our first iPhone), but it should change and affect (positively) people’s lives.

Technology advancements in the medical field have greatly extended the average life span for Americans. In fact, much of the baby boomer generation can expect to live into their 80s.

Along with improving the medical field, new innovations in technology have also affected the way families cope with their elderly. It is no surprise that loved ones will shell out big bucks to ensure their elderly family members are safe and healthy for the later portion of their lives.

That hasn’t changed in many years; what has changed, though, are the caregiving products they are spending money on. New start-ups, and app developers and technologies are shifting their focus to an audience that was ignored for some time – the elderly, but Silicon Valley is ignoring them no more! Tech start-ups are developing products and apps targeted for seniors at lightning speeds. These apps aim to keep the elderly generation healthy and living independently for a longer period of time.

Interesting, right? What is even more exciting are the amazing ways in which some of these developing apps can change senior living. Here is a round-up of the biggest and brightest in new technology-driven devices and programs aimed at senior citizens:

Aging2.0 makes it their mission to improve the lives of seniors around the world by accelerating innovative platforms. Started out of San Francisco, California, the team behind Aging 2.0, educates, supports, and brings together all those innovators, designers, entrepreneurs, care providers, and investors of apps and new technology for the elder community.

This platform brings together all of those companies and start-ups that create the programs and apps that help seniors lead a more independent life. They are worth mentioning because without this key platform a lot of the apps and companies that are out there to better assist the elderly probably would not exist.

Aging2.0 focuses on opportunities, health and lifestyle wellness, overall design, and the mission of the company for their members. They have more than 30 chapters around the world. The program regularly holds events, summits, and expos that bring the ideas which companies have to the forefront of technology.

·      Lively
Another beauty from San Francisco, (it is the tech capital of the U.S. after all!) Lively is an emergency medical alert system that reaches far more than the old “I’ve fallen and can’t get up” systems.

No home internet connection or phone line is required. All one has to do is plug the hub into a power outlet, place activity sensors around the house, activate the account, and wear the watch.

The watch is waterproof, has a large, clear display, and comes with bands that interchange. When activated, the orange help button makes a call to the Lively Care Team. The watch configures the time automatically, detects if the wearer falls, and sends medication reminders.

Lively provides loved ones of the elderly with peace of mind. The activity sensors can be placed on the refrigerator, pillbox, front door, and anywhere else to sense any abnormalities. If something is detected, the care team then contacts the loved ones who are listed as emergency contacts. This system allows for seniors to continue living in their homes without constant worry and nagging from family members. 

·      BrainAid
BrainAid is a mobile tool that boosts cognitive capabilities with which the elderly, veterans, and those who have suffered a brain injury are more inclined to struggle. The mobile “personal assistant” allows seniors to get more done by themselves and improves multitasking abilities. The mobile device is designed to help those who suffer from cognitive disorders, without taking away his or her autonomy.

BrainAid helps those who have trouble remembering appointments, getting to places on time, adjusting their schedule around life’s interruptions, taking medications on time, and completing small tasks.

The system runs on a mobile device and goes with you throughout your day, giving you a “nudge” when you need it. BrainAid keeps you on track with time and medicine, without putting that burden on loved ones.

Family members and caregivers can access this information through the BrainAid “Circle” dashboard online. It will map out if the device is currently being worn, how many steps have been taken, the last time that anything was opened (such as the pillbox and refrigerator), and it will send out notifications via text or email.

·      Sabi
An interesting and much-needed change to the 65-year-and-older market, Sabi changes the design of much-needed products like canes and pillboxes. A young entrepreneur saw a lack of appeal, interest, and overall design with these type of products.

Gone are the days of gray, drab looking canes. Sabi’s products come in bright, fresh colors and eliminate the shame that has been put into these products for so long. 

·      Lift Hero
A company based out of The Bay Area, California, Lift Hero is a service that provides the elderly with trusted drivers to assist seniors with their daily errands. A grandson who was concerned when his grandmother lost her license started Lift Hero. The goal of the company is to provide non-emergency transportation to seniors that feel like service a family member would provide them.

The service recruits quality drivers who are trained and experienced. The cars used are the personal cars of the drivers, which allows seniors to depend on trustworthy, reliable transportation.

Scheduling a ride is simple, and the service provides options to view the trip in real time, and it sends alerts and reminders that are easy to personalize.

What is so refreshing about these tools are that they aim to keep seniors active and relevant in means of communication. Often, with older methods of assisted care, the elderly’s independence and dignity are stripped.

These start-ups aspire to let seniors’ opinions be heard and for them to continue their independent living as much as possible. The apps are great tools for family and caregivers to check on their loved ones and feel safe that they are taken care of, while at the same time giving seniors the respect of space and self-sufficiency.

Another awesome aspect of these start-ups? They come from a place of love and concern of how to better support seniors. These entrepreneurs are not just creating products they think are best to aid the elderly, but are asking seniors for input, asking questions, figuring out how technology can best serve them.

Plus, most of these new app ideas came from real life experience with the designer’s grandparents and parents. They saw a big need in the industry and now are striving to fill it. The innovators don’t want to fill the need of human interactions, but rather to make everyday life easier and to give seniors the ability to continue to actively participate.

It’s safe to say the continuation of these and like-minded products and apps can surely improve the quality of life for your elderly loved one, when they are alone and when you two are together.

The Elderly
While having a longer life span is something to be happy about, the trouble comes when learning how to cope with a whole generation who can live longer, healthier lives than the generation before them. 

Just because people are healthier overall does not mean certain cognitive processes don’t slow down. The most common cognitive disorders that occur during a normal aging process are:

·      “Fluid” intelligence is an intellectual ability that is not based on experience or education. These tend to decline with age.

·      A common misconception is that memory loss happens to all of us as we age. Recent memory, meaning the formation of new memories, is more vulnerable to aging, while memory or recollection of past events stays the same.

·      The elderly often experience difficulty with paying attention to multiple different things at the same time, such as talking on the phone while preparing dinner.

·      Language is something that affects aging brains and which people often see as memory loss. Our vocabulary and knowledge of names, places, etc. are not necessarily lost, but one’s easy ability to recall and receive this information is slowed as he/she ages.

·      Reasoning and problem solving takes longer for the elderly if the problem or dilemma is not a usual occurrence. 

·      Aging minds take longer to process information than before, in earlier life. This does not mean that your loved one can’t do a certain task; it just means it takes him/her longer to do it. This is something to keep in mind!

When this happens, small things such as keeping a tidy house, keeping up with personal hygiene, and staying sociable with others tend to decline. It is best that you know what to look for to get your aging loved one the right assistance, if need be.

Here are some telltale signs that your parent needs living care assistance:

·      Personality and Behavioral Changes
Any sudden changes in personality or behavior are signs of cognitive deterioration or disorders. If your parent was once extremely sociable, but now likes to spend the day alone, or if he/she is experiencing mood swings, this is an indicator they need outside help and assistance.

·      Changes in Pantry
If it becomes difficult for your parent to cook meals, you may see a change in their dietary habits. If convenient frozen or fast food meals become the norm, along with spoiled food in the refrigerator, this is a huge red flag.

·      Dramatic Weight Loss
As a result of the changes in their eating habits, seniors may rapidly lose or gain weight. Also, look out for nutritional deficiencies that manifest as skin problems. 

·      Excessive Clutter
While piles of laundry or unopened mail may seem like no big deal, these small signs are often the first ones that show your parents are having difficulty with daily tasks. When cognitive function declines, the simple tasks, such as sorting through the mail, can become overwhelming.  

·      Cuts and Bruises
Apparent cuts and bruises signal possible vision loss and inability to move around easily and comfortably. If parents cannot tell you where the bruises came from specifically, take that as a warning sign.

·      Medication Issues
If seniors have an abundance of expired medications or fail to refill their prescriptions, this can indicate a need for assistance. Not taking their medication can also explain why their cognitive health is declining.

·      Failure to Pay Bills
Failure to schedule any services/appointments or pay bills shows serious problems with comprehension.

·      Dangerous Driving Behaviors
This is a tough one for seniors, but, if you notice they start to drive dangerously or rack up citations, this could suggest their vision and other brain functions are slowing. While it is hard for anyone to give up their license, you may need to ask your parents to stop driving for the safety of themselves and others.

Considering that aging and its effect do happen—yes, even to our loved ones—it is easy to want to jump on board of the new technology that will strengthen declining cognitive processes and increase overall satisfaction with independent living (for both you and your parent).

When it comes to your loved one, you want to take all the necessary steps to keep them both healthy and happy. Explore your options with technological products and services, at-home care, assisted living facilities, and your many other options.

The best choice for you and your family often depends on the specific health and familial structure you can provide for your parent. Take some time, do your research, and weigh all your options.




Post a Comment