Written by Wendy Johnstone, Provincial Program Consultant and Gerontologist with Family Caregivers of BC and originally published in Inspired 55+ Lifestyle Magazine.
Our family was recently impacted by an emergency, and an aging relative was hospitalized. With ongoing restrictions due to COVID, there were limitations to in-person visits and some family members involved in care live afar. After the acute event was over and our aging loved one was back home, I reflected on how much of our communication and caregiving was done virtually – texting, email, videoconference, apps to feel closer to each other, online booking for transportation and apps designed to help coordinate tasks and scheduling.
Using technology-based interventions and other digital applications is increasingly becoming a viable option to support family caregivers both in their role as a caregiver and for their own well-being. In a recent study by CareLink Advantage with over 600 respondents, results found that:
- 70% of respondents use technology to coordinate care (making appts, sharing care among family members, organizing transportation or services);
- 90% of respondents use technology to keep in touch with friends and family;
- 70% use digital apps and technology to better understand the health conditions of the person they are caring for; and
- Almost 50% of caregivers who live at a distance use technology to manage care.
How do you find the right digital tool for caregiving?
As many of us know, a single internet search can be overwhelming and can lead to many “rabbit holes.” There are so many digital solutions available; it’s hard to know where to start.
One of the best places for caregivers to begin is by identifying how they want technology to support them. A few options to consider:
- the health and well-being of the caregiver
- connection to sources of support for either the caregiver or the care recipient
- access to Telehealth, coupled with other monitoring tools to manage the health and well-being of their loved ones
- organizing/coordinating health care appointments and access to health care providers
- improving the safety and well-being of care recipient
- improving communication among the care team
- staying connected to loved ones
- supporting regular chores and time management
Not all applications are created equal. There are no accreditation processes or specific qualifications needed to create a website or mobile application. There is no guarantee the application works as intended or has undergone any type of review.
Do your due diligence when checking out a website or application. One way is to check to see if an unbiased professional or expert has given feedback or ratings.
Another strategy is to look for feedback from other caregivers. Sadly, it’s common for companies in all sectors to hire people to write positive “reviews” for their app or service. Ask your peers for their recommendations.
Before downloading an application, go back to how the app can support what you are already doing off-line. Consider how well the application solves a specific problem or challenge for you. Test it out prior to paying full price. Most apps offer a free or trial version.
With anything new in life, there is always a learning curve. Technology can feel scary; however, many caregivers find their lives and well-being improve with its use.
Our family relies on it; it makes us feel less isolated from each other and from our aging loved one. It also helps us stay informed, connected, and makes certain parts of caregiving a little easier!