About the SeniorAdvisor.com 2014 In-Home Innovation Scholarship: We started the scholarship program to bring awareness of the unique benefits and challenges of in-home caregiving for seniors to younger generations. The questions posed by the scholarship encouraged our nation’s future caregivers to present solutions for improving home care in the United States. College-aged students were required to answer one of the three essay topics below and provide a short bio as part of their scholarship application. Read the winning essays here.
How can the healthcare industry use technology to improve in-home care for American seniors?
Essay response by Brandon Hill, University of Utah
For many American senior citizens, their glory days are behind them. Raising children is finished and time spent outdoors tapers off as they age. Their home is where they will be living out the majority of the remainder of their lives. For this reason, in-home care is essential for senior citizens. Important tasks such as housekeeping, transportation, hygiene maintenance, and other errands are difficult to complete with old age. Luckily, we now live in an era where technology can be of assistance. We have seen things such as pacemakers, hearing aids, electric wheelchairs, and Life Alert that assist seniors in their every day lives, but I believe that the healthcare industry can use technology to take in-home care to the next level.
The top three problems I see for seniors in their homes are issues with mobility, memory, and self care. With mobility seniors have problems including moving in and around their house, bending, and lifting. Memory is a big dilemma as senior citizens can forget important things like when to take prescriptions, if they turned appliances off, and if they ate or not. Self-care is big and seniors have a hard time with it. With heart problems and diabetes being common, senior citizens must take good care of themselves, but as us younger people even know, that can be hard. All of these issues are on the minds of seniors and they look for the healthcare industry for help and assistance.
If you are familiar with the recent trends in technology you should have noticed the increase in what is called “wearable technology.” Examples of this tech are the Nike Fuel Band, Up by Jawbone, and the Apple Watch. These devices, usually worn on the wrist have the capabilities of counting calories burned, quality of sleep, heart rate, and the conditions around you. I believe that what these wearables can do is just the beginning. With further research and development, the healthcare industry can jump on this trend and improve in-home care. I envision a device worn on the wrist that can measure all important vitals and alert the citizens doctor if something is out of the ordinary. To address the issue of memory, the wearable can be synced to a prescription schedule and will give off and alarm to the person wearing it when it is time to take that prescription.
Along with wearables I think that technology that is planted into the body of a senior citizen will become popular as well. As scientists find ways to decrease the size of technology a strong likelihood of sensors being implanted into senior citizens without discomfort is ahead of us. These chips can measure blood sugar for those with diabetes and their wearable will alert them that they need to eat. Chips implanted in the digestive system could accurately measure the calories, fat, vitamins, and minerals ingested. This will make self-care more efficient because all this data could easily be displayed to a senior for them to see what they need to eat more of or what they should cut out.
For a senior citizen, getting around and going out takes effort and energy and comes with the risk of injury. In the past few years we have seen the growth of drone technology. Amazon has started to develop drones that will deliver their clients packages straight to their homes. I can see these drones being used by the healthcare industry to help senior citizens as well. When seniors need to leave their house it is usually to go to the doctor, the grocery store, or the pharmacy. To cut out trips to the grocery and pharmacy I can see apps being developed where a senior citizen can go on and order what they need and a drone can deliver these goods to the doorstep of their house.
While all of these innovations can seem far off into the future, we need to realize that it is not and the technology to do these things is already here or in development. It is not an issue of technology, but the price to implement this technology. As time goes on, the healthcare industry will find ways to make these things possible for the average American. To provide goods and services is their job and they are going to use technology to improve the in home care of these senior citizens.