Director, Office of Supportive and Caregiver Services, Administration for Community Living
Balancing concerns for safety with the need for privacy and independence when caregiving for an older adult can be tricky. Modern technology can help.
There are almost an infinite number of ways technology can help older adults and the caregivers who help support them.
New smart home devices like the Amazon Echo and Google Home can make a huge difference and open up whole new worlds of independence for people who live alone. Everyday tasks like turning on the lights, setting the oven to preheat, checking the status of your laundry, adjusting the thermostat, controlling your home security, ordering groceries, and more, are all just a simple voice command away.
Sensing from afar
Technology can also help families provide support to loved ones from a distance by using sensor systems. Sensor systems help monitor things like whether a person has taken their prescribed medications, when they’ve gotten out of bed, and whether a window or door has been opened. The systems can detect whether an oven burner has been left on — and even provide a way to shut it off remotely, if it has. These small things enable families to support their older loved ones from afar and enable the loved ones to live independently for longer.
When exploring technological solutions to help families, it’s important to keep the preferences of the person who needs help at the center of the conversation and to include them in it. Caregivers are often concerned about their loved ones’ safety — and safety certainly is important, especially if people are living with cognitive impairment. However, older adults don’t necessarily want caregivers to have unfettered access to their lives and information. Privacy considerations are crucial, and getting older doesn’t, or shouldn’t, take away a person’s right to decide for themselves how much they’re willing to trade to reduce risk.