National Family Caregiver Month honors those who receive very little recognition.
Since caregiving can be one of the most difficult jobs for anyone with around-the-clock care, little rest, possible stressful emotional situations and oftentimes inadequate compensation, President Obama declared November as National Family Caregiver Month in 2013. Since its inception, the mission of National Caregiver Month has been to raise awareness for caregivers and to improve their overall life and well-being.
Even the most loving and patient caregivers will become tired and need to recharge in order to avoid emotional or psychological burnout as a result of stress and overwork. However, one of the most wonderful things about advancing technology is the way in which it can make so many lives easier. This is no exception for caregivers – emerging technology can make a world of difference for caregivers in profound ways.
One key component for aid is the Internet, which well over half of all caregivers use for not only obtaining healthcare information and learning more about a diagnosis but also for social activities such as sharing personal stories or seeing what other people have gone through. As technology advances even further, the internet will be crucial in connecting caregivers with doctors, tech specialists, and other caregivers. Although it will not be enough, it will work in conjunction with other advancements to reduce caregiver stress and strain.
Other useful tools for caregivers are Personal Emergency Response Systems which can automatically alert a call center operator in the event of an emergency. This can greatly reduce stress on a caregiver who may worry that something could happen to a loved one while they are away. Medication reminders such as MedMinder and TabSafe can also reduce strain on a caregiver by allowing them to track if their attendee has taken a specific medication. There are also smartphone apps that serve similar functions for a fraction of the cost, as well as electronic pillboxes. A GPS system or radio tracker, which can work with a smartphone or on a separate device, can make it easier to locate a dementia-suffering senior, or it can simply send alerts to a caregiver if their patient leaves a certain area. All of these can increase senior autonomy while simultaneously lifting some of the burden from caregivers.
Although slightly more cumbersome, wireless home automation systems can also greatly ease a caregiver’s burden. This requires installing a security system with cameras, sensors, and monitors, all of which can track a patient’s actions and alert a caregiver if they have fallen or if something unusual has happened. These kinds of systems can vary in their invasiveness to fit the necessary situation. Some caregivers may be comfortable with a few short daily Skype calls from a webcam, while others in extreme cases may require constant surveillance. This can still give seniors a large amount of control and independence by allowing them to personally send notifications if there is an invasion or control the settings without getting up.
National Caregiver Month aims to raise awareness and ease caregivers’ burdens, and advancing technology is just one way to improve the lives of both caregivers and their loved ones because there is a useful tool for almost every unique caregiving situation. Some tools are simple apps that can be downloaded onto a smartphone while other tools transform an entire house into a security network to help protect seniors or others from danger. Easing the burden for caregivers will improve the overall quality of care while allowing them much-needed respite from what normally requires full attention.