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Beyond Google – Is it a problem finding care and related resources online?

Is there a search problem to solve? Or are we just lazy searchers? The Atlantic tried to assess the Decline of Google as a search tool, citing a variety of fairly technical arguments as to why, sourcing commentary from bloggers and ‘experts’ who track and analyze search engines. The major complaint over time seems to have been the growing presence of ads and perception of selective ranking in favor of Google’s own products (like showing YouTube videos) and/or business alliances. And certainly there are multiple blogs out there that condemn Google as a search tool, suggesting one of many other search tools out there, including Microsoft Bing, Yahoo and (mostly) non-tracking DuckDuckGo. The conclusion of the Atlantic article would seem to be facetious – ‘Google is still useful for many’, considering that 91% of searches are done with it. 

It's easy to find care information for aging parents online. Years ago, it might have been hard to find answers to questions, especially in the midst of an emergency – when a parent is being discharged from a hospital and the home is unsafe. Consider not so long ago when Google was dumber about aging, and elder care -- i.e. terms hadn’t been indexed, definitions weren’t great, and providers didn’t care. The role of a geriatric care manager seemed critical just to understand terminology and options. These general contractors for all things aging, certified and trained individuals can help navigate a bewildering world of services (or lack) that are very local – such as transportation, home care, senior living, meal delivery. These experts are particularly useful to support long-distance care issues – the parent is in Florida or Arizona and the adult children live all over the country.

Today the Internet is a rich resource to navigate aging and care. True, the content you are looking for (‘Find Assisted Living Near Me’) may start with ads (true of search tools Google, Duck Duck Go and Bing) – and now also have dubious star ratings -- Google reviews when searching with Google, makes sense, Facebook reviews, when searching with Microsoft’s Bing? (Really? Facebook?) But the fascinating thing about searching for a variety of resources – for example, caregiver resources for Alzheimer’s Disease -- the results look quite comprehensive.

Aggregating websites may not be better than search tools and human experts.  Do we need to go to Caring.com to find a local assisted living facility that is highly rated?  No, actually, since the ratings do not span all counties in a state and may not match current reality. In fact, as happened some years ago, ratings are very risky, and situations can change dramatically – businesses fail, shut down. Probably the most important first step as parents and family members age is to self-educate about options. Sift through non-profits, including AARP's articles, look at websites that may be condition-specific, take a look at Eldercare Locator narrow a list of whatever it may be and wherever it may be. But in the end, the steps are all the same – look for an advisor like a geriatric care manager, call, visit, ask for references, talk to family members, meet workers.  Repeat. 

[Read latest report The State of Voice-AI and Older Adults 2022]



I'd agree aggregating websites often don't do enough. Finding (and coordinating) care remains a significant challenge for most families. But I agree that it's not just a matter of finding specifics - search works well if you know what you're looking for/what you need. But there is a very large underserved population of families that need various types of assistance but don't know how to look for it, nor how to piece it all together, which is something pure search can't do.


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