Using Technology To Assist With Care Giving

Helping someone else out with their care can be really time-consuming and take a lot of energy. In addition to keeping everything else going on in your life, there is now all these other things on top of that to deal with. Fortunately, there are technology tools to assist caregivers with managing all of the tasks of care giving. We’ll take a look at a handful of options that are available.

Photo of smartphone apps by Andy Makely on UnsplashThese tools fall into a couple of categories. There are applications that help coordinate work, particularly if others are offering to help you. This might be family members or a team of people who come together to assist with caregiving. These applications also can provide connections with medical professionals.

Another category of tools are those apps that assist with caregiving to make life easier in this difficult task. These are things like cameras and tags to keep track of things.

Let’s dig in.

Coordination Apps

When it is more than just you helping to care for someone, a major issue becomes how to keep track of who said they would do what and when. Scheduling people for needs is another aspect of the coordination. Applications have been developed to help with the coordination of all of these tasks. These can be helpful both with long-term caregiving, as well as for short-term when someone perhaps is in recovery/rehabilitation from some medical event.

Carely is an app for mobile phone that provides a couple of features to assist with caregiving. This application is more of a mini-social networking environment with a shared calendar. Family or a care team can use the app to keep each other informed of activities and visits so that everyone in the social circle stays up-to-date. It might replace a group text type of communication with family.

In addition, other caregivers and professionals can also be added to the team to keep them (and your team) informed of activities or updates. Lastly, it has a calendar function so that the team can see what events might be upcoming. This could be helpful, for example, in knowing when a person’s appointments are so that someone on the team doesn’t try to visit.

Caring Village is another application for coordination and collaboration. It also includes a browser-based interface for desktops in addition to the mobile app. This app allows a family to all be part of a caring team and has a “journal” or “blog” that is where updates can be posted. It also has a scheduling calendar to allow listing of events that need to be done, along with who will be doing them. This assignment capability also extends to a “to-do” list capability where either people can be assigned to the tasks or a general call-to-action requesting people to volunteer for a task can be sent out to the care team.

Like Carely, professionals can be added to the team so that they can be kept aware as well as communicate with the care team as needed. The app supports both group messaging as well as individual messaging between team members.

Lotsa Helping Hands is a coordination app that is focused more on the concept of temporary help. This would be an app that people might use to coordinate rides for someone, or providing meals for a period of time. In this situation, the person getting care and assistance might also be on the application as it allows the ability to send well-wishes to the care-receiver as well as calendar coordination of activities.

It appears to be a simpler app with a few key capabilities.

Assistance With Medications and Reminder Tools

Another category of applications are those that can assist with keeping track of tasks and events and sending reminders when it is time to do something. This might be a reminder of when (and what) medications to be given, as well as a conduit for communication with a professional such as a pharmacist to ask questions or watch for drug interactions that might be harmful.

Medisafe is an application that your medical professional might subscribe to. They use this tool to communicate information about drugs to the patient. This can be in the form of reminders of when to take what medications, along with information about taking the drug. It can also link in with the financial side of a professional’s office to handle things like pre-approvals and pharmaceutical company finance-assistance programs.

Walmart Wellness is another solution that includes a mobile app for use by patients. It can send medication reminders as well as manage prescriptions and refills with Walmart. The app also has a number of the functions that some of the other apps described have included such as a journal, a calendar, and to-do lists. This app also can assist with tracking health statistics such as blood pressure and other health data.

MyMeds is an application made available to members of participating pharmacy organizations (Pharmacy Benefits Management companies) to allow the patient to see a lot of the pharmacy information that the pharmacy or mail-order pharmacy has in their systems.

Its primary purpose appears to be the management of prescriptions such as refills and requesting new scripts for prescriptions that don’t have any more refills. It appears to also have a reminder capability for those who might want push notifications to remind them to take medications, but that does not seem to be its primary purpose.

RxSaver is in this medication assistance category, but it is not quite like the others. This is like the website GoodRx. The main purpose is to provide discounts for drugs by providing either a discount card that can be used or allows finding cheaper prices for medications. Both of these discount drug assistance companies provide a mobile app to allow you to do functions on your phone. The mobile apps appear to be add-ons rather than the primary purpose of the application.

Helpful Aids For The Home

Finally, we address a number of applications and solutions that can assist a caregiver with doing their job of helping their loved one. One problem that seems to often come up is the inability to keep track of things around the house. It might be because there are multiple caregivers and someone moves something without telling others, or if might be the patient who moves things and then forgets where they put them. Solutions for this problem fall into the electronic tagging category.

Physical tags are attached to items and through blue-tooth protocol, these can be tracked using a mobile phone. Tags come in various sizes and attachment methods. Tag trackers include solutions by Tile, Samsung Galaxy, and Apple’s airtag. If there is a concern that the patient themselves could be misplaced – by them walking away from the house, in the example of a dementia patient – these tracking items can also be used to track someone who wonders. One problem is that patients may see these devices and remove them, so a solution by Smartsole provides the ability to place a GPS tracker within a sole insert in a shoe, which a patient is not likely to think to remove.

In addition to tracking items, a caregiver may want to keep eyes on a patient but without having to be in the same room as the patient at all times. Portable baby cameras or “nanny cams” can often be used to great effect in these situations.

For caregivers or family members who may be further away, internet-enabled security cameras may be a solution. These allow placing a camera someplace in the home where it can see where the patient usually hangs out. This might be a bedroom or favorite chair in the living area, for example. The caregiver or interested family member can view the camera in real-time from anywhere with internet access to keep track of the person.

I had a co-worker who did this for his father, who was living independently but minimally so. My friend placed a security camera on top of the TV set pointed at the chair where his father always sat to watch TV (which his father would then do for hours at a time). My co-worker could check in and see if his father was awake, or dozing or somewhere else in the house. It gave him a peace of mind that he could keep tabs on his father between visits.

Naturally, this is a tool that can have its down-side as well. I am aware of a situation where cameras were placed in the home for keeping track of the patient and the patient also had professional aides coming in to the home to assist with caregiving. Unfortunately, the family member spent quite a bit of time during the day watching the cameras and using the talk-back functionality to micro-manage the work of the aides. So, one has to be mindful of how the technology is used.

Caregiving is not an easy task for anyone. But technology can assist with the role and in many cases can help take some of the burden off being that support person. This can be by engaging others, by assisting with all of the tasks that need to be kept track of, and coordination of activities.