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Care at home – the continuum of oversight needs a reality check
Okay, okay, we get it – everyone wants to age at home. How do we know? AARP say so. Forget that AARP’s survey sample might be skewed towards the younger end of fifty- and sixty-somethings, not 80-90 year olds. Forget that life expectancy is lengthening -- the good life or the not-so-good – apparently indistinguishable among the life expectancy extender-types, aka the healthcare system. Forget that this is a gloomy and isolating picture for those with limited transportation in their 80’s and 90’s, those living alone with mild to moderate dementia, and those for whom it is a great chore just to get up and about.
Tech and service vendors (want you to) believe home can trump assisted living. So if one more vendor tells me that the monthly cost of their (monitoring, sensor, chronic disease checker, whatchamacallit) subscription service is one-tenth (one-fifth, half, or whatever) the cost of a month in assisted living, I may just lose it. Does their product/service offer up group activities? Trips to the park? Shared dining experiences? Redirection and therapy programs for the mildly disabled or those with dementia? Is there a dietician on staff? How about an activities director? Need I go on? This sales pitch is designed to make adult children and the vendor feel self-righteous, but all that their products do (hopefully) is in the specs – sense this and track that, and hopefully forward the info to someone who can react. Someone who can react is certainly an improvement over no reaction, but on the continuum of oversight, it skews to the left.
Home care is booming and there is a mini-boomlet in home care tech. From Ankota to Virtual Health, from Intel/GE Care Innovations to J&J and Philips, to other startups talking to me about standardizing workflow processes for home care agencies and home health care – the home is where it is at and will be for a while. Pendulum momentum is all in that direction and even the senior housing folks must recognize and acknowledge. So let’s see the vendors fill out all four quadrants (partnerships and referrals are fine, no need to create from scratch) of successful aging at home. Think and talk about communication and engagement (beyond talking with the doctor!), health and wellness (telehealth folks, please partner with fitness tech), safety and security (PERS is not dead – but amazingly non-mobile and minimally linked to telehealth or the xHealths). As for contribution and learning, well, that segment of the world which depends on improved tech communications capability for older adults – is, well, in another world.
Imagine the caregiver – home or professional – overwhelmed with tech options. For those lucky enough to have an engaged family or professional caregiver, let’s consider how absolutely daunting it must be for caregivers to discover that they are a growing target market – the bottom apex on an inverted triangle of software vendors, services, platforms, and mobile tablets and tools. Consider the approach of plotting a continuum of frailty for home-based care recipients, mapped to a continuum of care, mapped to a continuum of supporting technologies and fill out that map for yourself and your prospects, or the marketplace if you are considering what to buy. Look at the fragmented telehealth solutions being assembled (and I use that term loosely!). And if that seems daunting, check out the Market Overview, last updated in May, on this website.