26 Sep Caregiving With Tech
1) What is your background as a caregiver and technology user and was using tech in the home to aid in caring for your Father a natural step for you?
I was a caregiver for my dad who lived with Alzheimer’s for 10+ years until his peaceful passing away at his home in early 2018. I have utilized technologies as tools during our journey for many years and present for Alzheimer Societies, Universities, Innovators and Police on technology and dementia. I didn’t start using technology tools and aids until we were taking on some dangerous safety challenges such as him going missing during his walks or quietly leaving home at inappropriate times. When he no longer answered the phone or he would not hang it up properly, I upcycled some current technologies to assist with communication.
2) What simple apps can those of us, mostly equipped with a smartphone, set up at home to assist us in caregiving?
Technology can be a sensitive discussion in the dementia community, especially around independence, privacy, ethics, affordability, and accessibility. One solution or strategy for one person or family may not be agreeable to someone else. Besides the common “reminder” and “scheduling” apps that have a competitive market, apps that involve Internet of Things (IoT) such as controlling lights, heater/air conditioner, or locking and unlocking a door will assist in living well, especially for caregivers that may want to use remote care strategies. I’ve used video cameras to care for him remotely which helped him live longer at his home. I’m a fan of utilizing a phone’s camera app and a note tool like Evernote for any reminder, whether that’s documents, photos of my dad’s clothes and shoes in case he’s missing, and to share updates with personal care team members. I’m also a big supporter of video communication tools to not just support him from social isolation but to also support my mom in being connected herself.
3) What products or additional aids would you suggest investing in that can help us even more than what we can get at our finger tips with a phone or iPad?
Any of the shopping apps to help with delivery of supplies such as Amazon, Walmart, groceries, etc. saves time and dollars. Regarding the safety of getting lost, if someone is still able to carry a smartphone with them, consider that a GPS/Locating device, so app tools like Find Friends or Life360 can be great for knowing someone’s whereabouts. Other GPS devices that are not phones are also safety options. Depending on the comfort of the person with dementia, some would benefit from wearables such as FitBits or Watches that evaluate your health, but these do add up in costs. Social media apps like Facebook or Instagram are great to share quality time with photos of family and friends. I’ve utilized music apps/subscriptions like Spotify to play music on the spot or remotely control his music when I’m away from his home.
4) Where can caregivers and tech-savvy people who want to help link up to other caregivers using tech solutions in their caregiving journey?
In Canada I’m quite involved with the dementia technology and innovation community. With AGE-WELL, I co-chair the Older Adults and Caregivers Advisory Committee. I am also on the Seniors Advisory Panel with the Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation (CABHI) at Baycrest. Both are great places to start for anyone interested in technology tools for caregivers. By the way, you don’t need to be tech-savvy to learn more or participate in projects. One more online community I would suggest caregivers check out is Huddol.com where caregivers gather to meet with other caregivers and some experts in various care disciplines.
Our thanks to Ron Beleno for sharing his expertise on using tech in caregiving and all he does in the community.