This section was adapted from the “United Way Metro Vancouver Family & Friends Caregivers Information and Resource Handbook 2016/17” with permission from the Handbook author.
We can sometimes match technology with the needs of care recipients and caregivers, including health, housing, mobility, communication, and leisure aspects, and create ‘assistive technology’ to increase independence and quality of life. Some technology seems scary, plus, the number of choices can seem overwhelming and products are constantly upgrading, making it hard to keep up. However, a number of devices simplify caregiving so it is worthwhile investigating what’s available. It is also a good idea to research different options with tech devices because different companies will offer the similar products but they vary in terms of their aging friendly design and offered features. It is important to note there are some ethical concerns with some technologies as they may be seen as an invasion of the care recipient’s privacy. Below is a list of some well-known technologies and organizations offering technology solutions that can be beneficial to caregivers:
AbleData provides objective information on assistive technology and rehabilitation equipment available from domestic and international sources to consumers, organizations, professionals, and caregivers within the United States. They serve the nation’s disability, rehabilitation, and senior communities. They do not produce, distribute or sell any of the products listed on this website, but provide information on how to contact manufacturers or distributors of the products.
CanAssist is a University of Victoria program that uses innovative technology solutions to improve the independence of people with disabilities. Some of the devices they currently have to offer are a wandering redirect system, a phone-in monitoring system, and a manual wheelchair lift. These and others can be found on their website. To request the use of a technology device from CanAssist you must fill out a request form, click on the ‘Access Our Services’ tab at the top of their webpage and complete the ‘Individuals and families’ request form; your request acceptance is funding dependent. Also, if you are unable to find a technology device that fits your loved one’s needs, you can request CanAssist to develop one specifically for them. They are also able to modify and customize existing commercial technologies
GPS Technology tracking is being used for seniors with dementia, and these devices are available in many different forms. For example, they can be found in shoe soles, bracelets, necklaces, and watches. This tracking helps caregivers keep track of their loved ones and make sure that they are not in harms way, giving them peace of mind and reassurance. Senior Tech Daily lists and describes different GPS trackers.
Online Support Communities for Caregivers include discussion forums, chat rooms, lists of resources etc. Visit Elder Care Online to see an example.
Online Support Communities for Care Recipients. Caring for someone dealing with depression or struggling with age-related issues and are in need of additional emotional support? Online support communities provide care recipients with a place to share their stories and connect with people in similar situations. Daily Strength is a website with a variety of support groups for different issues seniors may be facing.
Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS). It is normal to be concerned about a frail care recipient who is home alone, at risk for falling or needing medical attention. A PERS can help alleviate some caregiver worry. These systems typically entail a medical alert pendant or wristband. When a senior falls or is having a medical emergency, so long as he/she remains conscious, the response system is there to be activated. A central call office is alerted, an operator communicates with the senior via a phone communicator, and a special call is then sent to a designated family member, friend, or neighbour in order to arrange help. Setting up one of these systems involves an installation fee, plus a monthly charge. Some companies require a long-term contract that locks you in for a fixed period of time. Lifeline is the best known supplier of PERS, but other companies supply them too. Lifeline brochures are available in multiple languages and translators are available for the helpline. A new technology can now also detect some falls even when the senior is unconscious and unable to press their alert device.
Tablets for Seniors. Tablets are computer pad that respond to touch; they are light weight, mobile and completely wireless. Tablets that are specifically designed for seniors have large text and are easy to navigate making them easier to use them regardless of owns computer skills. Features that can be included on tablets include video calling, email and text messages that can be operated by voice recognition, medication reminders, calendar and appointment reminders, check-in notices so the care recipient can communicate with their caregiver and let them know they’re okay, alerts that are sent to the caregiver if anything seems out of the ordinary such as missed check-ins or medications, photos and videos, and call requests. A great feature of some tablets is that caregivers can access and manage them, which is especially helpful for long distance caregivers. Claris offers a tablet designed specifically for seniors called the Claris Companion.
Tetra Society is a non-profit with skilled volunteers who create and build customized devices to assist people with physical disabilities. See their website page that is dedicated to seniors.
The Alzheimer’s Store This U.S. website sells devices such as memory phones, medication dispensers, alarm systems, visually relaxing DVDs, music boxes etc., meant to assist caregivers and people with Alzheimer’s. While these products are created for people with dementias, many are helpful for a wide range of seniors
Tyze Online Personal Network Tyze (pronounced ‘ties’) is an option to help family caregivers create strong, supportive, and private networks online. When faced with a life challenge, we most often turn to our personal networks of friends and family for help. Tyze helps people help each other. A Tyze network is a set of online tools that makes it easy for people to form personal networks of support. Practical tools include things like:
-A private way to communicate
-A message and shared calendar system
-Ability to assign and accept tasks
-A way to share pictures and stories
-A way to securely store and access files
It’s all completely secure and private. It removes the hassle and time of emailing and calling everyone one at a time. And it takes just moments to set up. For Christabel, a young woman caring for her mom who has cancer, mobilizing a support group on Tyze has been “a godsend.” Christabel’s mom’s network has about 14 people in it and when they were all gathered together online, life got easier. “I only had to send messages out once,” says Christabel. “For example I’d put out a message saying, hey, mom needs a ride to the doctor tomorrow, and someone would always step up. I can’t imagine those kinds of results over email alone.” For another member, John, Tyze was used to coordinate care for his dad who lived in another country. “Dad was aging and we weren’t able to track his condition well from afar. Once we set the Tyze network up, we could view photos taken by neighbours and see what he was up to every day. One neighbour we invited in said she was so relived to be asked to help since she’d wanted to pitch in before but just didn’t know how.”
People use Tyze in a myriad of different ways, from coordinating support after a cancer diagnosis to scrapbooking priceless family memories, communicating with a small group of friends or a team and much, much more. Busy people on the go can manage Tyze from their smart phone or tablet and connect with their caregiver circle network from anywhere. You can request a free demo.
Wireless Home Monitoring, also known as ‘granny cams’, involve the use of cameras within the home of the care recipient so the caregivers can monitor them from a distance. As a caregiver, you can gain peace of mind being able to see your loved one and knowing they are eating well, taking their medications and not in any danger. Lorex is a company that offers such video monitoring products. Visit their caregiver solutions page online.