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 Stephanie Watts
In the ever-changing world of technology that we live in, I believe technology can be used to better the lives of everyone, especially the lives of American seniors in the care of in-home care providers. Forms of technology can be used by both the seniors and the healthcare providers.
One way technology can be used to improve in-home care for seniors is by allowing seniors to have constant communication with their care providers. For example, many seniors have difficulty in mobility and are not easily capable of moving around the house, or they may simply have trouble walking. If a patient needs assistance in the middle of the night and cannot easily reach the phone or get to their healthcare provider, they may become injured or cause further harm to their health. By providing them with cell phones, smart phones, FaceTime on an iPhone, Skype, intercom systems throughout their home, or even simpler forms of technology such as a walkie-talkie or baby monitor, it will provide them with instant communication to get them the help they need, and may even save their life.
Now, I know many seniors refuse to learn how to use new technology, or are unable to retain the information, but by introducing them to simple ways of instant face-to-face technology communication, the healthcare industry will drastically improve in-home care with American seniors. One way to encourage seniors to use this technology is to make versions that are easy to learn, specifically designed seniors. For examples, the JitterBug phone: it has large buttons and a large handle, so seniors are more capable of reading the numbers and using this phone. Even modern day reading materials for seniors use large print and prominent font and ink to make their material more readable for seniors with failing eyesight. By using smartphones with large screens and easy to read buttons, and easily accessible applications such as speed dialing their care provider and family members, using FaceTime, and immediate access to their medical information would help seniors have access to the communication they need. These products can also be set with timers, alarms, alerts, and reminders for the patient regarded many different aspects of their lives. They can be used to remind the patients how to use specific items in their home, when to take certain medications, to call their children or family members, or even reminders of when to eat and to stay properly hydrated.
Another way technology can be used in in-home care of American seniors is to provide digital readings of their vital signs that are recorded, transmitted, and monitored by their healthcare provider. For example, in cases where a patient is diabetic, they would wear a glucose level monitor that recorded their glucose levels and transmitted them to the healthcare provider while their in-home caregiver wasn’t there. At the healthcare facility, trained medical staff would review the results and take action when needed. These results can be taken and recorded at any intervals of time.
This technology could also be used as an alert system for the in-home care provider while the patient is asleep or during other times while the patient and caregiver are separated. This form of technology would have a monitoring system that would alert the caregiver of any unusual activity with any of the patient’s vital signs. The caregiver can then take whatever actions possible to tend to the patient. If this technology wasn’t available and something went array in the middle of the night, and the patient had no way of either knowing or alerting their care provider, it could cause harm to their health, or they could even die.
By using any of these forms of technology, the in-home care of American seniors can be improved. And by making improvements in their healthcare, it may even encourage improvements in other areas of their lives.
Stephanie is attending Peninsula College.