Aging in Place: Solutions for the Long-Distance Caregiver

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For families with loved ones living with Alzheimer’s and dementia, caregiving from a distance is a reality many face. Fortunately, modern caregivers are equipped with tools that can streamline caregiving, making it possible to meet this challenge and allow for the elderly to age in place. “You have a greater number of people aging in place,” says David Lindeman, a member of the AARP California Executive Council. “Technology can be a huge help in maintaining independence, offering lifelong learning, wellness and healthy aging.”

Many families face these challenges

The cost of institutional care can be overwhelming; nursing home expenses can exceed $95,000 annually and assisted living can top $45,000. Yet, technology continues to make possible both effective and cost-efficient alternatives, assisting caregivers juggling both geographic and financial challenges. Technologies such as the Amazon Echo, with Alexa-enabled voice control, and add-ons such as Marvee, which permits hands-free texts and calls, have made institutional care an option, rather than an inevitability.

There are more options than ever

GeriJoy, powered by CareCoach, enabled Arlyn Anderson’s father, Jim, to remain at home in the Minnesota cottage he had shared with his wife. The German shepherd avatar, powered by highly-trained remote caregivers through a Google Nexus tablet, became an invaluable fixture in Jim’s care. Named Pony, the care avatar regularly checked in on him, set important reminders, complimented and encouraged him, gauged and improved his mood through cognitive interactions, and kept a watchful eye on caretakers in his home. Human intelligence makes possible this budget-friendly, engaging, and highly effective alternative to paid-care. Which for Arlyn, meant peace of mind at a fraction of the price...

Marvee, an Alexa add-on specifically designed for individuals with dementia, aims to provide a “voice-first lifestyle” for older adults. Carol Smith, 83, who lives in a retirement community in Carlsbad, California uses the Amazon Echo to control the lights and thermostat, call her brother or send for help, and be reminded to take her medications. “It gives her a great deal of independence,” said her husband, Ray. “If for some reason I have to be away, she's able to function on her own. It's keeping her safe, but closely related to that, it's allowing her to be independently safe.”

While these are just two examples, aging in place is becoming a preferred course for both care recipients and their families. Dr. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute, refers to this concept as “monitored independence.” “People want to be autonomous, irrespective of age,” he said. For long-distance caregivers, it is especially important to be aware of any and all options that exist. Approximately 71 percent of caregivers are interested in using technology to help in their role, yet only 7 percent currently are. By increasing knowledge of the diverse caregiving technologies that exist, we can close this gap. Whether you are a first-time caregiver, or a seasoned one, don’t get stuck in a “one-size-fits-all” mentality. Every situation is unique, as is every solution. The good news is: there are dozens out there.

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