Family Caregiving & the Promise of Technology

Guest post by Ben Margolin

When older Americans require around-the-clock care, yet want to remain in their homes, their families often end up as caregivers. There are significant financial barriers to ensuring that older adults adhere to their medication schedule and have access to the right doctors and specialists, all while feeling safe in their homes. This often presents a considerable burden to households. Consider, for instance, that the average caregiver in the U.S. will dedicate almost 20 hours a week in unpaid care to an elderly parent for a period of five years while holding some form of employment.

Fortunately, recent advances in technology are bringing new hope to those facing this issue.

Innovations in telemedicine, for example, are paving the way for faster, easier, and cheaper elderly care. Difficulty traveling for older adults makes visiting the doctor a laborious process – just having to leave the home can be a challenge for many. New technology can allow these older patients to see a doctor 24/7, and enable doctors to visualize symptoms and prescribe the correct medication. Clinical use of tech-based platforms can help senior citizens take their daily medication at the proper time, without having a full-time caregiver present.

Security is also a serious consideration for older adults and can present an obstacle for family caregivers. Without full-time supervision, it is only natural for a family caretaker to worry about the safety and security of his or her relatives. New technology in this arena is helping to ensure that older Americans have adequate surveillance capabilities, quick access to emergency services, and adequate cyber-protection for their personal health information.

The cost of providing care can be significantly lowered with the application of certain technologies. However, reduction in the cost of providing care has not yet been reflected in the cost to the consumer. Moreover, health insurance coverage, along with government-sponsored healthcare for the elderly, must undergo reforms to reflect the changing costs associated with new care delivery options.

As a public health issue with grave implications for U.S. households, identifying more effective caregiving services for older adults is one of the central topics of our 2017 Better Government Competition. Whether through unique tech-enabled solutions or other approaches, we hope our initiative will attract the most creative minds working to find better ways to deliver care to our aging population.

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