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Caregiving technology needs a version 2.0 upgrade

The dilemma of distance -- boomers have parents who live in, for example, Florida. The oldest boomer is 69. They’re not all that healthy. The still-living parent(s) may be even less healthy. In this age of medical specialization and long distance families, many aging women living alone: they need to see doctors, perhaps multiple doctors. Even if the children of aging parents live nearby, experiencing enhanced intergenerational proximity (!), the aging parent may ultimately live alone. With life expectancy for woman now averaging 88+, it is safe to say that older boomers are still involved in coordinating the care of their aging parent/mother. And they’re doing it from a distance – since the boomer woman with a career may not reside in Florida. Consider that Florida is now on track to become the 3rd largest state – with population growth primarily from migration. The state now has a median age of 74 for its 65+ population, one-quarter of that population widowed. But the dilemma of distance criss-crosses the country from California to Maine, from upstate New York to New Mexico.

Does communication about tasks and status through apps fit the need?  Not so much in the caregiving space. Lots of apps (see iTunes and Google Play), but do they really help with the dilemma of distance?  Even those that promise to do one useful thing – improve communication about appointments, medication reminders, documents related to the elderly – all useful, but are they sufficient? Does the app mitigate fear and loneliness? Does help with care coordination, especially post hospital stay; with transportation to-from appointments; and general oversight needs of an 88.8-year-old widow or an 86-year-old widower? Share-the-care sites like Lotsa Helping Hands or Caring Bridge help with forming local care circles of volunteers or streamline communication flow during a crisis, but what about day-to-day check-in with that 88-year-old widow in Florida? Or that resident in hospice care in assisted living?

Finding care is not the problem.  Lots of sites are out there with the word care in the name and lead referral/matching inside the business model.  Caring.com, CareLinx, Care.com (now sorting its offers into childcare, senior care, and pets), and newer ones like CareMerge or Open Placement (note trendier words like care transition and coordinators), CareZone Senior, or Lindy Care or the still-horrendously-named A Place for Mom. [Rant on: Yes, true, one may need to find a place for Mom, but that site’s name evokes fitting Mom into a jigsaw puzzle space or a new home artwork layout. Rant off]. Hint to sites – type into the Google search box "Find assisted living" along with a specific zip code. Search has come a long way and may point directly to facilities without your site's help. Search sites should step up to providing more support to caregivers – once the care has been found.

Today firms establish the category, but not the larger solution. Players in the caregiving space may be comfortably funded (see BankRate and Caring.com, for example) or like Care.com, change the sort on their core offerings (why? TV ads are about babysitters!) to include senior care. But do these firms think big in their strategy, perhaps just not in their website? Are meetings allocated to thinking holistically about the caregiving distance dilemma and therefore the business opportunity? Perhaps there is a combination of hardware and software along with smart groupings of content. Perhaps there is an alliance-to-be of cooperation that would ultimately result in platforms that underpin suites of multi-vendor offerings (and no, that platform is not an iPhone). Consider pairings like home sensors and home care services, web-based communication cameras and caregiver tips, or home care visits and on-demand transportation. Or think about combinations of clothes shopping services and meal delivery, home-based robots and medication management. And last but certainly not least, fit in real care coordination. Is that really about the doctor-patient relationship as with CareSync's view? Who is incorporating care communication from within senior housing management? How is the dilemma of distance being addressed -- now and in the future?


As Laurie points out there is a need to keep these distant elderly in the family circle. "An App for Grandma" is aimed at doing just that. It runs on your Android Phone and Grandma's Android Tablet. The big deal is that she does not have to touch it at all. You can send her pictures of your family life and videos too. These arrive without her having to do anything, No Touch.
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=stayintouch.tradersmicro.c... and a movie at http://youtu.be/pdN8T1yTmck

We can even put subtitles up, you speak a phrase and it comes up on the tablet. You can use this with a regular phone call to clarify what you are talking about, or use it with Skype so that even if she is quite deaf.

An App for Grandma is designed as a gentle support for the thing Grandma cares most about, her family.

Not just the name. The frequency of its radio spots is mind-numbing! You cannot escape it. I cannot believe Place for Mom board is looking seriously at the value of its radio marketing!

We need a circle of care around older people. The care plan has to include families and friends in addition to professionals and telecare. Wellbeing needs daily monitoring not just infrequent visits to or by practitioners.

Many baby boomers are widely dispersed and need more reassurance. eg see www.kemuri.org.uk

Dr Leonard

Dr Leonard Anderson

Co-Founder at Kemuri

Laurie: your "rant on/rant off" was golden! I may have to start using this in my daily routine. : )
Yup here, too. After almost 2 years researching and keeping "up-to-date" with current "aging technology", I'm nonplussed overall with current offerings. Caregiving is the single most important aspect of our aging society, and it involves so many disconnected entities. Single app solutions just aren't gonna cut it.

Sarah Reha

Healthcare Passionista Destined to Dazzle

If anyone has any suggestions about how Aging2.0 tech should work BETTER, please let us all know!

 I agree! I recently wrote a white paper on this topic and I would love your feedback on it: http://www.connectedhealthresources.com/white-papers/

MaryAnne Sterling, CEA

Co-founder of Connected Health Resources and Principal at Sterling Health IT Consulting

I am a bit confused..what is meant by caregiving technology? Is it tech which aids caregivers? Is it technology which helps people aging at home? Is it mobile health tech which monitors patients? Technologies are tools. They only become solutions when utilized into a context of human processes and support. There are tools which address specific disease states and also ones which help the person at home in a holistic fashion. All tools should also involve the caregiver if they are worth anything.

David Lee Scher, MD

Cardiologist, Digital Health Tech Consultant, Syndicated Blogger


I agree. It is vital for everyone to have a "medical home" where their PCP is the coordinator of integrated care. This includes the use of patient portals, apps, and other IT systems to bring a variety of caregivers and social services together, with minimal complications and confusion and maximum benefits.

Physicians, managed care organizations, and hospitals would do well to speed their understanding and adoption of health IT for the sake of consumers, particularly older patients.

-- Faith W. Smalls

Recently I was at a seminar on the transition and differences between Ageing1.0 and Ageing2.0

One of the trends in older care and part of the Ageing 2.0 mindset is integrated care covering healthcare and social services. With this integration; comes a holistic care model that is quantatitive in treatments (stroke, dementia etc) but also qualitative (in social interactions, focus on outcomes such as activity, hobbies etc).

To me caregiving technology needs to enable/support this holistic care with the older person and their care team in the middle so that the experience is a quality one for all.

By improving the quality of care, I mean that the technology is reducing the administration, facilitating speedier responses, facilitating a more personalised care program for each older person and feeding back to the care team different quality fo care metrics to show strengthes and weaknesses of the programme.

This is a topic we will be exhibiting on at the International Integrated Care conference in Edinburgh later in March.

Richie Bowden

CEO & Founder - Assesspatients


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