The innovation of tele-caregiving—the use of technology to monitor and communicate with an elder in their own home—is poised to revolutionize the way elders with declining health are cared for.
What is Tele-Caregiving?
In a tele-caregiving situation, strategically placed video cameras and sensors enable a tele-caregiver to keep tabs on an elder without physically being in their house. Computers and the Internet are also used to enable a family member of the elder or a tele-caregiver to directly communicate with an elder over video chat.
Prior to the advent of this form of elder care, elders who were beginning to experience symptoms of dementia or physical conditions that made it difficult for them to get around their house, were forced to go into an assisted living facility or hire an in-home caregiver. Not only do these options present a heavy financial burden for an elder, they also prevent them from aging in their own home without the assistance of an outsider or another family member.
Enter tele-caregiving. There are many varieties of tele-caregiving, ranging from a simple emergency alert system that is meant to observe and respond to emergencies, to a more extensive system that involves an extended connection with an electronic caregiver that may last for hours at a time.
Using radio frequency tags, tele-caregiving systems can also be used to indicate whether or not an elder has handled, and presumably opened, their medication bottles. Certain sensors can also keep track of more mundane, everyday tasks, such as preparing a meal or sitting on a particular piece of furniture.
Tele-caregiving pilot programs have been conducted in several countries. In each instance, tele-caregiving systems proved their usefulness and reliability in a variety of eldercare situations. The results of these test programs have made people more accepting of tele-caregiving as an alternative to in-home care or assisted living.
A set of studies recently conducted by AARP has indicated that caregivers and elders alike are becoming more aware of and receptive to different forms of tele-caregiving. Caregivers are embracing technology that will enable them to keep a closer eye on the elders they care for and elders are appreciative of technology that will allow them to affordably age in their own home for as long as possible.
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