The United States is on the verge of an elder care crisis, with an ageing population, an incoming nursing shortage and the price of healthcare to continuing to rise. Numerous firms are using technology to fill this vacuum of care, with more services available to fill a growing range of healthcare needs.
One of the most important technological services is one already used by millions worldwide – calling through Skype or FaceTime. These are also increasingly popular with doctors across the country to consult with patients who may be too frail, too sick or too far away to come to the office for regular appointments. Patients can also discuss and show their symptoms through video, such as skin discoloration, or take photographs.
Monitoring vital signs
Another key component of doctor’s visits is measuring essential vital signs such as weight, blood pressure and heart rate. Thanks to recent developments in technology, which is now so prolific it can be found in many smartphones, taking these measurements is so simple and patients can now do so in their own homes.
This also means doctors can keep an even closer eye on a patient’s health. Many care services, such as caringpeopleinc.com, offer specialized health software which will collect data taken up to several times a day. This data can then be sent to the doctor, who will be made aware of any problems instantly.
Personal devices which can work as an alert or location beacon are also building popularity amongst the senior community. Some portable alarms can use GPS to pinpoint exactly where a lost or injured elderly patient is, and send the coordinates to emergency services or families. These make the long-held fear of falling over at home, which is the major cause of hospitalization among seniors and a leading factor in the decision to move to a nursing home or assisted living facility, greatly diminished.
There are, however, some barriers which limit the further spread of aged-care technology. The first is up-front cost. Some technological devices and systems can be expensive, which may put families off. Compared to the cost of a full-time caregiver or constant doctors, most devices will pay for themselves within a relatively short time-span.
Another problem is slow uptake with some seniors. It can be difficult for the elderly to navigate the software or device, especially if they’re not familiar with 21st-century technology. Many services work through this issue by developing extremely simple, intuitive interfaces which are easy to use, and offering hands-on training and assistance with the senior patient.
For many seniors who still have some independence but have safety concerns or need ongoing medical supervision, technology is bridging the service gap in the aged care that is set to get wider in the coming years. Responding to problems in the healthcare system and the needs of patients continues to be an ongoing challenge, with many technology firms eager to find the perfect solution.