Mar 11th 2020

How Technology Can Support Caregivers

When people become ill, family and friends often do a lot of the caregiving. Few caregivers are actually healthcare professionals with training in this field; consequently, given the high stress that comes with the role, caregivers often suffer physically and mentally. According to the National Family Caregiver Alliance, 17% of caregivers feel their general health has declined due to their caregiving responsibilities, a toll that increases the more years they act as a caregiver. And 40% to 70% of family caregivers report experiencing clinically significant depression, among other mood disruptions linked to their caregiving.

But a variety of technologies are emerging, or already available, that can help with self-care and reduce caregiving burdens.

Mental health tech

Accessing mental healthcare no longer requires going to a provider's brick and mortar office. A variety of apps make it possible to text, chat, or meet online with a mental health professional.

There are also quite a few mindfulness apps, like Calm and Headspace, that coach users in calming and centering techniques such as meditation and deep breathing. Some offer guided talks.

Essential health data

Tracking one's health is the first step to improving it. More and more people are using wearables—smart devices such as Fitbits and watches—that make it easy to track health data such as your heart rate and food consumption. Step counters remind caregivers to get up and exercise. Sleep counters can help bring awareness to problematic sleep patterns.

Caregivers might also take advantage of some of the wearable tech designed for the patient, e.g., smart sensors such as wearable glucose monitors and wearable ECG monitors that can transmit data to the patient's doctor—reducing the need to visit the doctor’s office for appointments.

Assistive tech for the patient

For some people, caregiving can be a round-the-clock activity, particularly when patients are chronically ill or suffer from dementia. Yet caregivers often have regular jobs, and children they also care for. Assistive technologies may provide the caregiver a break. Voice-activated devices and systems such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa can empower the patient to independently perform tasks using their voice. These are especially useful to those who have a difficult time getting up and down with ease—and they give the caregiver a break. GPS-enabled wearables can help keep track of a patient's whereabouts, as well as offer a way for patients to contact emergency services if needed. Simple products that fit the needs of both the patient and the caregiver work best.

These are among the growing ways that caregivers can use technology to more easily take care of their caregiving patients—and themselves.