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 KT Rogers, University of Central Florida
The Healthcare industry can use technology to improve in-home care for American seniors in many exciting and evolving ways. Often seniors suffer from depression due to loss of mobility, isolation, and memory related issues. Families are frequently in different geographic areas, which, further increases the need to discover methods for maintaining contact and ensuring they are receiving proper care to stay comfortably and safely in their own home for as long possible.
The biggest concern for most families with a senior relative is that they are receiving the same quality of care from a paid caregiver, as they would from a loved one. Physical or verbal abuse is a serious concern, particularly for those suffering from Dementia, who may not understand what is happening to them, or be able to report it. Many families have resorted to “Nanny-Cams”, or, more accurately, “Granny-Cams”. These tiny tools can be hidden on a shelf or inside a stuffed bear and transmitted to a computer. There have been many abuse situations uncovered by viewing this footage. Likewise, these cameras can be used to view and evaluate Caregivers skills in patient care, in a more unobtrusive manner than being evaluated with a supervisor in the same room. In many cases a senior will have multiple caregivers that work in shifts to cover their 24 hour care. Maintaining accurate records of the client’s vitals, as well as any changes in condition or incidents or concerns that arose during a shift can be a life saver. The data can also be transmitted to the personal physician or to family members, as needed. Often, equipment like heart monitors can be programmed to transmit their data to a physician or hospital automatically. By transcribing, saving and charting data, small changes in condition can be determined much more quickly, and breakdowns in communication can be prevented. Maintaining long term records is also very valuable to substitute or replacement caregivers who may not be familiar with the client or the case. Whether physician or Nurses Assistant, they would be able to understand the individual care plan and how it has changed and evolved for the client. They could easily evaluate what needs to be done to keep them safe, comfortable, happy and at home. Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, and Speech Therapists could also add their notes to these diaries. Caregivers would then have detailed directions and suggestions for physical and mental exercises that they could work on with their client, which would contribute to speedier rehabilitation, in many cases. In almost every case, working with a senior to use their personal computer to stay in communication with others is vital to their mental outlook. Keeping in touch with family members and friends far and wide decreases feelings of isolation and depression and help them stay positive about their condition. They can easily order groceries for delivery, renew prescriptions, make doctor appointments, and simply stay connected to the outside world. Voice recognition software will let them dictate emails and posts without typing. Keyboards can be set up to be less sensitive to shaky hands. Software can even “read” what is on the screen so that those with visual impairments who cannot read larger fonts communicate. Cameras will also allow them to see and talk to those who are far away or even to use sign language to talk.
In conclusion, the wonders of modern technology can be utilized in countless ways to improve the lives of elderly home care clients. It can help keep them safe, well cared for and connected to the world. Most importantly, it can be a valuable tool in allowing them to stay in comfort of their own homes as long as possible.
KT is a junior at University of Central Florida pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and intends to continue on to a master’s degree in Speech Pathology.