Gone are the days where a "typical" caregiver is a female working at patient bedsides for 12 hour shifts. Technology is changing the senior care narrative, and you can use it to help older adults live their best lives.
Imagine that your grandparents want to live independently, but require some assistance. They may opt for a "smart" senior care community that uses the latest technology to enhance the resident experience. The caregiving staff maintains each resident's schedule, medicine reminders and health stats, communicating it all in real time to families. Residents use sensor-enabled devices like smart pillboxes to take the right medicines at the right time, and wearable health monitoring bracelets. Diet and fitness apps help them stay motivated to make healthy choices, while smartphones allow them to video chat with friends and family. They can leverage a voice-activated assistant 24/7 to call for help, play their favorite songs, or schedule a daytime museum trip.
This is not the distant future. This is now. It's the evolution of caregiving enhanced by technology. Digital tools are enriching how we live our lives as we age, empowering everyone from seniors themselves to the senior care workforce.
The Industry Revolution
It's no secret that aging adults want to live as independently as possible, for as long as possible. Seniors are increasingly choosing home health care and assisted living to fulfill that desire. The application of digital technology and caregiving is proving to be critical in helping seniors achieve their independent living goals. This presents opportunities for younger generations who are tech-savvy to apply their skills in healthcare and assisted living. Whether as a home health aide or assisted living community nurse, senior caregiving enriches your life as much as it does for residents and their families.
No longer are nursing school graduates limited to hospitals and health clinic career paths. The United Health Foundation reported that there are 500,000 more U.S. home health workers today than in 2018. The report also found that seniors are living longer, but with more chronic health issues like diabetes, which further increases the need for home healthcare and assisted living.
The aging Boomer generation is rapidly swelling the population of those over age 65, opening more job opportunities for senior caregivers. Global consulting leader Mercer predicted that there will be a shortage of 29,000 nurses in 2025, with some states being hit harder than others, such as New Jersey, California and Texas. For Millennials and Generation Z, this presents a chance to merge tech skills with compassionate care for others.
Assisted Living and Home Care Work Environments
Compared to the traditional bedside nursing role in hospitals, home health and assisted living caregivers are mobile, traveling to different seniors' homes in their work week. The seniors they care for are typically not terminally ill like those in hospice care.
Modern care providers have embraced Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) culture, which allows today's workers to use their own tech devices for convenient personal and professional interactions. Digital technologies in senior care have helped minimize tedious data entry and manual record keeping, which not only helps caregivers work more efficiently, but frees more time to build relationships with residents.
Additional technologies that are transforming senior care include:
GPS - RTLS: Non-invasive tracking devices embedded into clothing, wearable accessories, and even shoes help track residents' locations. This helps memory care providers prevent wandering, accidents, and even death.
Mobile Apps: Caregivers use phone and tablet mobile apps that essentially act as a handheld dashboard. Typical apps are designed to easily track work hours, record care, communicate with resident families, organize schedules, administer medicines, notes, and other important job duties.
Virtual Reality (VR): Straight from the land of computer gaming, VR proves to be effective in assisting residents with memory loss and cognitive impairments.
Seniors are even contradicting the ideology that only the young generations are tech-savvy. A study by Provision Living showed that Baby Boomers spend 5 hours per day on their cell phones, compared to 5.7 for Millennials. Facebook, Instagram, and email were the top apps that boomers reported using the most. Seniors also commonly use online health apps to view their lab results, appointment schedules, and to research health and wellness topics.
High Demand Assisted Living Careers
As in any industry, job openings differ between states, as do compensation packages and educational requirements.
: One of the most common elderly care positions, job outlook is projected to grow by 20% by 2022. Typical duties: measuring vital signs, assisting with exercise, transportation and medicine administration. Arthritis, dementia, and Alzheimer's are just some common conditions for which geriatric nurses provide care. Educational requirements include Registered Nurse (RN) designation with a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing.
Nurse Advocate: Serving as a go-between with physicians and seniors, nurse advocates ensure seniors and their families understand medical procedures, billing, and alternative treatments. Educational requirements include BSN degree and RN designation. Having expertise in public health and finance is helpful.
Oncology Nurse: Specializing in cancer treatment, oncology nurses are in particularly high demand in senior care. Duties include administering cancer treatment such as chemotherapy and associated procedures. Job growth is projected at 20% by 2022, and this role requires several years of experience as an RN.
Pain Management Nurse: Working anywhere from hospices to senior care communities, these nurses help manage chronic pain conditions through physical therapy and other methods. The work they do can help prevent medicine addiction among elderly individuals. Requirements: BSN degree with experience in pain management
Home Health Aide: Not to be confused with personal aides, home health aides provide care to individuals with disabilities, chronic illnesses and other age based ailments. Though working in client homes, Registered Nurses or physicians supervise them. Typical duties include helping with medicine administration, transportation, grooming, and homemaking. Educational requirements vary per state, with some requiring vocational or community college training.
Example of technology at work from one of vcpi's partners, LifeLoop:
"The LifeLoop app serves as the personal connection between our residents and their family and friends. Not only is it important that our residents love the way they live at our communities, it’s also important that long distance relationships are maintained and nurtured.”
Leann Miller- Director of Nurse Education, Dial Retirement Communities