Our series on senior home care technology and home health products continues with this guest post from a writer at Sharp Seniors. Sarah-Elizabeth explores the pros and cons of aging in place technologies and how to find the right balance between home health products and the human touch.
As technology marches ever forward in bold strides, it never ceases to amaze what lurks just around the corner. Medical science has a lot of corners, too. If you’ve heard of ‘aging in place,’ then you might be nodding your head right now, agreeing that technology and the art of aging are truly starting to dovetail quite nicely.
Aging in place is not a new concept but it’s receiving more and more attention these days. It refers to remaining in your home as you become more seasoned and includes some reliance on machines, caregivers and conveniences that allow you to be healthily independent rather than taking up residence in an assisted living or other care facility. Instead of moving from your home and adapting to a new environment, you adapt your environment to you and your changing needs. Often, this is done with leaps in medical technology, paired with the marketing muscle of General Electric and Intel to bring it to your home.
Pilot programs are underway right now to develop and test the benefits and accuracy of a number of machines that may equip homes with the necessary ability to monitor a bevy of health conditions, just like they do in major hospitals, without ever needing to pack up and shuffle off the homestead. These include such devices as medication-monitoring pill boxes and bed sensors adjusted to assess heart rate, quality of sleep and even breathing patterns. That’s far from all. There are monitors for when you open the ‘fridge, for when you walk down the hall to record your gait and any difficulty, robots with video monitors to keep families in touch and that wii platform can be used to measure balance and physical weight. Step out the door and it’s recorded.
More than physical health can benefit from technolgical advances. For those who can’t live with flesh and blood pets, robotic ones may be the answer, programmed to interact and respond as real pets do. Depressed much? It takes more muscles to frown than to smile and they’ve developed devices to monitor that, too, to make sure no one is unduly unhappy. Depression is a huge factor in many health-related issues. There’s even GPS-like software to assist with the concern of wandering in dementia.
And to monitor the advance or encroachment of such concerns as dementia or Alzheimer’s, specialized games, designed to keep cognitive functions primed and at the fore, are made to be played while keystrokes and time between answers are logged, as is type speed and spelling errors.
There is always a negative to a positive and despite how incredible the technology is, there are downsides. One of the biggest is that most of the medical monitoring tech is marketed to hospitals and clinics, or assisted living facilities, with few (as yet) directed toward individual homes. Not bought in bulk, these devices are often costly and many come with monthly fees on top of the initial purchase or rent. Many families are not even aware these machines exist until loved ones require supervised care directly. Quite possibly the greatest of these foreseeable drawbacks is the mindset they could create: the belief that these medical advances are the end-all-be all, that the machines can handle any kind of medical need or problem, and that humans are written out of the equation.
This is, of course, not true. While it’s all very exciting and getting caught up in the whirl and twirl of it is easy, machines are to assist, to aid, not take the full burden of the smallest considerations. Professionals and specialists exist for a reason and their counsel should be sought before investing in the med-tech that will pervade the home. Even then, all decked out with the latest devices, doctors should be visited with regularity and health assessed via a living, breathing physician. Visitors should be encouraged to the home to combat isolation.
Dignity and Comfort
Considering the monthly costs of assisted or independent living facilities, it is not so monetarily far-fetched to pay monthly monitoring fees for the independence and familiarity of remaining in your own home. You know the house, the layout; you’ve been in the neighborhood for years, watched your kids grow, your grandkids, all under the same roof. There are very good reasons not to leave it, not when it can be fitted with a few extras devices to allow you to stay.
Even if you need assistance in a few areas like cooking, shopping, or getting dressed and bathing, there are ways around this from asking for help from relatives to hiring part time help. Home care services may be covered by long-term care insurance and there are other programs to help; providers can assist you in creating a plan for care that you can afford (to learn more, visit EasyLiving’s post, “Dollars and Sense: Making Home Health Care Affordable“). There may also be community resources and help from groups like your church community as well as services like housekeeping to support your well-being as you age in place.
The point is, if you don’t want to leave home and hearth, it may be quite possible to arrange otherwise with a little bit of planning and some work. Speak to your doctor, consider getting a professional geriatric care management assessment and get ready to embrace the technology of aging in place. Just don’t rely on it over people.
About the author: Sarah-Elizabeth R comes from a long line of professional writers. Her extensive experience writing for various online and in print publications has given Sarah a distinct style which showcases her writing as unique, versatile, and personal. She is currently the head writer for Sharp Seniors.com, where she writes on the important issues facing today’s aging population.
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