Much has been written about the benefits of technology for seniors, but did you know that caregivers have plenty to gain from embracing technology, as well? The National Alliance for Caregiving's Catalyzing Technology to Support Family Caregiving report highlights the value of mobile, online, and in-home technologies for supporting family caregivers, and proposing recommendations aimed at optimizing its impact. Let's take a closer look.
The Need for Family Caregiver Support
Family caregivers make up the vast majority of Americans providing care for family members, friends, and neighbors unable to care for themselves due to frailty, illness or injury. As the population continues to age, even more non-professional caregivers will take on these roles in the years ahead.
While many caregivers have turned to the internet as an invaluable source of support and information in recent years, the report suggests that technology can do even more. It asks the following two-part question: "Can technology play a more meaningful role in helping caregivers and how we can accelerate innovation in developing new applications to support caregivers?"
The Experts Weigh In
To answer these questions, the National Alliance for Caregiving assembled a roundtable panel of experts tasked with assessing the state of caregiving. Their findings highlighted the availability of current commercial solutions aimed at lightening the burden on family caregivers, including several web-based, information-oriented services, mobile personal assistance products, and remote home monitoring systems.
However, the panel also proposed that there are many more possibilities for technology-based caregiving help, including these three areas:
- Wearable technology and the emergence of the cloud as a solution to the problem of data capture
- Intelligent family care assistance in the form of devices or systems which track family care metrics and tasks to ensure that all relevant parties are adequately and automatically informed, engaged, and empowered
- Enhanced connectedness between family caregivers, family members, and the comprehensive health care team to improve both efficiency and effectiveness across the continuum of care.
While there's great promise for improving the lives of family caregivers through technology, there's still work to be done.
The report reinforced the importance of "framing the issue" to best catalyze innovation and spur progress. This starts with cultivating a national conversation through which people truly understand the challenges of caregiving. Why? Because "without clear understanding, with only simplistic assumptions about caregivers' needs, it is unlikely we will see the technology innovations we hope for."
Understanding can be further supported by prioritizing more comprehensive data about the reality of caregiving -- regarding everything from its prevalence to its impact. According to the report,
"We won't know if technologies, services, and policies are actually helping family caregivers unless we have a way to measure caregiver burden. Therefore developing metrics of caregiver burden, and gathering data on current caregiver burdens is an urgent objective. Similarly, we need to develop metrics for health based on the family's goals."
Catalyzing Technology to Support Family Caregiving concludes with clear directives for everyone from employers and government policy makers to media and healthcare providers regarding how they can do their part to support family caregiving and integrating technology. However, perhaps most relevant of all to today's family caregiver are the instructions directed toward them: to support and learn from one another by sharing information, and to eschew self-blame by accepting data conclusively indicating that caregiving is challenging and overwhelming for millions of people just like them.
mmLearn.org offers an extensive library of free videos for caregivers of older adults, covering topics about senior care. Whether you are a healthcare professional or a family caregiver, if you are caring for an older adult, you will find mmLearn.org an essential learning and guidance tool for all of your caregiver training needs. For more useful information on the art, science and spirit of caregiving; identifying and reducing caregiver stress and strain; and other vital topics, access our free database of videos offering online training for caregivers today.