As America’s senior population grows, the role of technology in caregiving will continue to grow alongside it. Family members are the main source of care for many seniors, but as care becomes more intensive and complicated, seniors and their family members often opt for the care of an assisted living community.
While assisted living communities are fully staffed with experts in senior care, technology is making their jobs easier and more effective through further integration with the Internet of Things.
What is the Internet of Things?
The Internet of Things is considered the next step in the evolution of internet as we know it. When people think of the internet, they often associate it with computers or browsing on a mobile phone. The Internet of Things, or IoT, is the use of internet in everything around you — not just on computers, tablets and smartphones. That means the chair you sitting in, the toaster, the rug and even your keys will one day be internet-connected devices.
That does not mean that you will be reading the news from your coffeemaker — though that could, someday, be commonplace. What the Internet of Things is really about is information, connection and communication. A coffeemaker integrated through the Internet of Things will gather information and begin to understand how and when you like your coffee —it can then have it ready for you at the exact moment you need it. One of the more common products on the market integrated with the Internet of Things is the NEST home thermostat. The NEST thermostat, as opposed to standard thermostats, collects information regarding home use and preferred temperatures in order to provide more energy-efficient heating and cooling.
The application and practicality of the Internet of Things does not stop with gadgets around the house. The Internet of Things can save lives when it comes to medical and caregiving technology. Through communication and information sharing, caregivers can take senior care to the next level. Seniors and their families will soon expect more accurate and personalized care with help of the Internet of Things.
Bridging the Care Gap
Further integration with the Internet of Things and senior care in assisted living communities is not just an innovative way to use technology; it may be a necessary component of all senior care in the coming years. One of the main driving forces behind this integration is to help solve the issue of the care gap the United States faces in the years to come.
It is well known that Americans are aging at a much faster rate than they are giving birth these days. Back in 2010, there were seven adults for every one senior who was in need of care. In the year 2030, the number will dip to four adults to every one senior who needs care and in 2050 that number will drop to three to one: the AARP calls this the “caregiving cliff”. Devices equipped and integrated with the Internet of Things can make each caregiver’s job more effective and efficient. As the ratio between staff and seniors could widen, each staff member will be better at providing accurate care as well as less stressed knowing they have more information in hand.
The Benefits of the Internet of Things
A benefit the Internet of Things can provide is the enhancement of implant and wearable technology to monitor healthcare. Many glucometers and pacemakers are already integrated with the Internet of Things, providing patients and doctors accurate information in regards to care. For assisted living community providers, this means monitoring precise data every day. When a senior is an emergency state — diabetic patients, for example — their caregiver can be alerted right away through their smartphone or other device.
Technology today also allows for alerts when a patient falls or even changes in daily routines as it relates to dementia or Alzheimer’s. If anything is out of the ordinary, caregivers may be able to spot something before it is too late or arrive just in time to assist a senior in need. Wearable technology integrated with the Internet of Things can also help monitor an array of other things such as sleep patterns, vital signs or movement.
No longer will a doctor or care provider just ask the patient how they are feeling — through real time-data, they will have a better understanding of what a patient is going through and be able to help in any way possible before even entering their room.
This does not end at wearable technology, as the Internet of Things allows for more one-on-one in-facility care when it comes to regular checkups. Through the use of portable machines, blood and urine tests can be taken in the comfort of an assisted living community home and analyzed on the spot if need be. Any anomalies will be noticed right away, allowing healthcare providers and family members the power to make current choices.
The Internet of Things can also be used to keep families and loved ones in the loop at all times. The same data doctors and assisted living staff view can be accessed through the cloud safely and privately by a family member or loved one. This allows a continued role in a senior’s life without having to be in the direct company of loved ones at all times.
The benefits of the Internet of Things when it comes to assisted living communities are not just medical in nature. The Internet of Things, when integrated into products of everyday use, can help make an assisted living community feel just like home. It is only a matter of time before assisted living communities start using technology integrated with the Internet of Things to add comfort to everyday living if they have not already.
Technology integrated with the Internet of Things can help control temperature, lighting, music and even help seniors put in service requests. The potential of the Internet of Things is nearly limitless, helping the overall wellbeing of seniors in assisted living communities and help their loved ones have peace of mind, knowing the added care that will come from the use of IoT technology.