As our bodies age, it’s only natural to experience health-related issues. From sarcopenia (age related muscle loss) to heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and arthritis, illnesses impairing mobility and function are all too common. Like any ongoing condition, a vigilant care regime is necessary to make sure everything is running smoothly and avoid any health scares.
Traditionally, this would entail a trip to a doctor or specialist’s office, follow-up appointments as necessary, in-home care etc are all focused on face-to-face interaction. But what about as we enter a world where online communication is shaping the way industries operate?
Everything from the way medicine is distributed to the dissemination of information about our own personal health is changing as we speak. The potential of technology benefits seniors tremendously! Check out a few major technological strides made that are transforming the landscape of senior healthcare for the better:
A method of providing clinical care remotely through information technology and telecommunications devices (such as a call center or videochat), telemedicine is an interesting glimpse into what digital healthcare could look like in the not-so-distant future. While not an entirely new phenomenon (its roots date back to the 1950s), the practice has been experiencing tremendous growth lately. Integrating tracking devices (which will be discussed below) along with on-demand, low-cost healthcare delivery means that providers have a vested financial interest in the future of telemedicine the same way that patients do.
Check out PBS’s report on how telemedicine/video conferencing benefits both patients and physicians, offering convenience, efficiency and savings.
Apps & Wearables
According to a study by the Pew Internet Center, smartphone ownership amongst the older demographic (50+) has nearly doubled in the last 5 years alone. As seniors become more comfortable with the use of smartphone health and fitness apps and wearable tracking devices the possible applications become limitless. We can now itemize our food intake down to the smallest micronutrient, attend virtual fitness classes taught by real personal trainers, and even track our sleep patterns-all of which leads to a better foundational understanding of the different factors contributing to “optimal health”, on top of the existing physical benefits of regular health and fitness. Speaking of wearables, check out a few of our favorites:
- A power player in the wearable fitness tracking world, Fitbit has certainly left its mark through its unmatchable accuracy, especially when it comes to logging steps, burned calories, and sleeping patterns.
- Read more on Fitbit benefits and why it would be a great gift for Dad (and Mom!)
- Moov’s patented technology measures your exact heartbeat by examining the blood oxygen levels of your sweat- plus, it’s waterproof up to 30 meters, which means you can even use it in the pool!
- Though perhaps most closely associated with directional GPS systems, Garmin has actually rolled out some pretty amazing fitness trackers, specifically, the VivoSmart 3. It’s able to automatically detect when you begin exercising, and can even count reps and heart rate variability, so you know when to take a rest.
Innovations in digital safety also carry the potential to greatly improve the lives of seniors living at home. The advent of Personal Emergency Response Systems, or PERS, enables a call for help with the push of a button. This means that in the event of a fall or other emergency situation, family members don’t have to worry about their loved one being at home alone!
Additionally, GPS tracking devices are especially useful for those suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s, who have a tendency to wander. Check out a few below!
- This tracker is seriously cool- inserted inside the sole of a shoe, it automatically logs locations every 5 minutes using a cellular network, and sends alerts via text directly to your phone.
- The iTraq can clip onto luggage, slide into a child’s backpack, or be worn as a bracelet around the wrist of a senior. What’s more, it’s proprietary sensor can detect motion or falls, enabling you to tell if a patient has injured themselves while wandering.
- A registered non-profit, Project Lifesaver enlists the help of a community network and emergency responders to search for a wanderer when they’re reported missing using an individualized location frequency device.
Devices like these help caregivers monitor the whereabouts of their charges and prevent anything from happening to them, which is an invaluable resource! They also enable those with dementia considerably more freedom than in a traditional residential situation.
Take a look at how GPS Smartsole’s tracking system works!
Online Health Tracking
Similar to fitness and food trackers, health tracking platforms allow caregivers and family members to store and access records pertaining to their charges. Whether it’s medical histories, physician contacts, or current medication protocols, a tool like this makes for more informed healthcare decisions, even with little notice. A few great examples include:
- Following a doctor’s visit, Caresync helps to create a care plan that’s inclusive of everyone involved in the care process. It also supports efforts in sourcing more affordable information and travel options for appointments.
- MyPHR helps caregivers keep track of confusing medical records by going paperless. By keeping and managing information like medication and test results using this system, a caregiver can look at everything in one place.
In short, technological advances have made convenience the norm in almost every avenue of life, but especially within the senior healthcare community, which for many of whom access to this level of digital care was not previously available.
Inroads into “the future of healthcare” is not without risk. Some argue that the degree to which we’re becoming reliant on telemedicine and health apps carries the potential for privacy breaches, inaccurate diagnoses, inexperienced doctors, and incurring costs for seniors who may not be able to buy the latest smart device.
While it’s true that we may never develop a complete substitute for a practical, physical trip to the doctor’s, it’s also certainly apparent that there are new ways to reach the senior and caregiver communities and enable them to take control of their own health.
*This post was written in collaboration with staff writers for the Aaptiv Magazine, which aims to share wellness and lifestyle tips from industry experts.
Nurse Next Door caregivers can help bring Happier Aging to your loved one’s life. Learn more about our Companionship services here!