About the SeniorAdvisor.com 2014 In-Home Innovation Scholarship: We started the scholarship program to bring awareness of the unique benefits and challenges of in-home caregiving for seniors to younger generations. The questions posed by the scholarship encouraged our nation’s future caregivers to present solutions for improving home care in the United States. College-aged students were required to answer one of the three essay topics below and provide a short bio as part of their scholarship application. Read the winning essays here.
How can the healthcare industry use technology to improve in-home care for American seniors?
Essay response by Andrei Irimia, University of Central Florida
With the baby boomer generation now approaching retirement, seniors in America are numerous like never before. There is an entire aging population which will require retirement homes, social security benefits, as well as in-home care. It is thus very important that technology be used extensively to improve comfort. Having a grandmother who requires in-home care, I can very well sympathize with the need to improve its efficiency through technology. I have personally seen many elderly people suffer incessantly because they could not afford such care; in the worst cases, many simply passed away.
According to the United States Government’s Longterm Care website, the average cost to have an in home health professional is $21, while a homemaker costs $19. In total this is close to $30,000 annually: a not so small figure for someone living on a pension. The main goal of the health care industry should be to help reduce this number by providing technology that can monitor health without in-home care workers needing to be present around the clock, or rather needing them to be present for only a few hours each day. My grandmother, who is nearly eighty years old, requires someone to be in her room both day and night. Thus, the lady taking care of her must also sleep in the apartment; as a result she is paid far more.
Even with technology, my parents would not be able to escape this financial burden because my grandmother lives in Romania, where health monitoring technology is not even available for use. However, within the United States, there is a group called the Home Care Technology Association of America, which strives to lobby Congress in passing legislation that will make such equipment deductible under Medicare. The argument is simple, it costs the government less to provide this equipment along with partial in-home care, than it costs to cover around the clock in-home care.
There are many different technologies that can be used to improve in-home care. Devices like Lively help family members or health professionals keep tabs on whether or not a senior has taken their medication. The device operates by having sensors placed throughout the house and if certain pills are not taken at certain times it immediately notifies, via text, the person taking care of the senior. This way that person can call to remind the senior to take the pills or show up in person. Other small portable devices can even monitor heart rate and blood pressure on a daily basis. These devices are also trained to send out texts to caregivers if an anomaly occurs. This is often cheaper and preferable to having a health care worker being present in the home all day. It is also more accurate because a health care worker cannot tell someone’s blood pressure without actually taking the time to check it; and this is only done once or twice throughout the day, whereas the device motors it constantly.
Ultimately, the technology to improve in-home care exists, it is now up to the health care industry to either make it more affordable, or to lobby Congress so that it is subsidized under Medicare packages. As of yet, this technology is too expensive for most seniors and their families to pay for, however, if it were subsidized by the government, it would become far more accessible. This would allow the seniors of America to spend the rest of their lives in comfort, without having to worry about their day-to-day health.
Andrei is a student at the University of Central Florida working on an Economics degree.