As one ages, the specter of no longer being able to take care of oneself looms large. Many people have an understandable desire to avoid managed-care facilities and stay in their own homes.
This is not a small worry, or one that only a few people have. The Huffington Post throws the problem into perspective:
According to a recent poll [PDF] by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, 82 percent of retirees and 78 percent of pre-retirees are very concerned about being in an institutional environment that is not as comfortable as a home. This may come at no surprise, due to the regular reports of elder abuse, negligence and the often depressing connotations tied to aging family members being trapped in these lonely, sterile institutions.
It’s hardly surprising that many programs and technologies popping up are geared toward helping seniors retain as much independence as possible. Virtual Health is one such program. It’s a collaboration between Virtual Health, a service provider that delivers home-based services (meals, transportation, and financial counseling, among others) and SeniorBridge, a leading provider of home-based elder care.
Virtual Health leverages cutting-edge technology to provide health monitoring and lifestyle services for the elderly, in an effort to allow them the independence of living at home. The approach uses the FDA-cleared Care Innovations Guide platform, which allows providers to use video-conferencing technology to remotely monitor patient vital signs, including blood pressure, weight, and glucose levels.
Since it is implemented using video tools, rather than just audio and text, it provides the engagement that can only come from face-to-face care.
Tracey Boyd describes it in a bit more detail on Nurse.com:
The system is deployed on a tablet and allows for face-to-face interaction between the senior and the nurse case manager, not just audio and speech, Rackow said. ‘It’s very user friendly. You can sit in your armchair and talk to your care manager,’ he said. ‘That’s extremely useful because the nurse can see their composure and decide if they seem to be depressed, for example. This can reduce the need for how much in-home time is needed and that will reduce the cost.’
An added benefit is seniors have their own personal ‘health’ portal where they or their family can log on to see how they are doing. ‘They are able to log in like a bank account,’ Go said. ‘We felt strongly that any package should have that as part of the program.’
There are many others, including Full Circle America (FCA), which uses similar technologies as part of its approach. FCA is specifically geared towards seniors that live on the islands off the coast of Maine and includes numerous social elements as well.
It seems that tech is one of the best weapons in the war for independence that seniors wage every year. Whether it is larger cutting-edge programs like the ones I just mentioned, or the simple tools for daily life such as the Neptune Upright Bath Lift or the Med Minder, we keep coming back to assistive technologies.