Some Need-to-Know Technologies for Caregivers
Guilaine Jean-Pierre | Aug 2, 2013
Topic category: Home Modification

Not all apps work on all devices; they are dependent on the device and service plan. Once you buy a device―whether mobile, tablet, laptop or desktop―you are limited to the mobile operating system (OS) or "platform" that runs on that device. The major systems currently available are Apple, Android, Microsoft and Blackberry. When reviewing the types of applications and websites below, remember to search on the manufacturer's website for compatibility with your device and platform (or on the platform-specific store, such as iTunes for Apple devices, and Google Play for Android devices).

Coordinating Care: Need a place where family, friends and neighbors can go to find out how they can help you with caregiving? Post information for people to stay updated about life and care issues? Offer a calendar where members of your group sign up to provide transportation to doctor appointments or come by for a visit and more?Examples: www.LotsaHelpingHands.com,www.Tyze.com.

Managing Appointments and Tasks:These applications allow multiple people to: maintain a single calendar color-coded by user, assign and coordinate tasks, establish a list of what needs to be done and notes for the status of a given project or event.Examples:Google Calendar.

Medication Management:When faced with multiple prescriptions and over-the-counter medications, remembering when to take what pill when and with what can be confusing at best. These applications often include pill identification tools such as the FDA Drug Database, medication scheduling trackers and reminder alarms―all personalized to fit your requirements. There are even apps for the person who needs an incentive to adhere to their medication regime, employing the use of prizes, fun games, and educational tips.Examples:PillBox (National Library of Medicine),MedMinder.

Personal Health Record Tracking:Keeping track of your health, the health of the person your care for and possibly the health of children and spouse in your family are important. These apps offer secure tools to protect privacy, offer strategies to organize personal health records, and often include a way to record symptoms and keep track of test results and diagnoses. They can track hospital visits, immunization dates, maintain insurance records, and provide health-related alerts. There is even a tool to suggest questions for a doctor's visit and then record the visit (with the okay of your doctor of course), to help remind you what was said and to share all or part of this with other key family members who were unable to attend the appointment.Examples:Health Vault,Mayo Health Manager,WebMD Health Manager.

Social and Emotional Support:Caregivers all too often feel alone and isolated. Forty percent to 70 percent of family caregivers have high-risk symptoms for depression. Of these caregivers, one quarter to one-half meet the diagnostic criteria for major depression (Zarit). Communities of caregivers are available online and by mobile phone 24 hours a day to listen and to provide much needed encouragement.Examples:Strength for Caring - CareConnector,PTSD Coach, Alzheimer's Association (http://www.alz.org).

Meditation and Spirituality: Sometimes a physical respite from caregiving isn't always possible. You may find yourself with a mere 10-15 minutes to yourself on a particularly stressful day of caregiving―not long enough for a hot bath, perhaps, but enough time to calm your mind with an audio-based app playing nature sounds, soothing music or a repetition of mantras or chants. Whatever works to calm your mind, can certainly work on calming your body. One popular place to listen to music and sounds online is Pandora (both a website, www.pandora.com, and an app), an online radio site that allows users to type in an artist, genre or composer to build their own personalized radio station.Examples:At www.Pandora.com, try "Nature Sounds Radio." Also, Meditation Oasis has iPhone/iPad apps like "Simply Being - Guided Meditation for Relaxation and Presence."

Information & Education:Caregiver information classes are now being offered by webinar. Webinars are seminars where you can listen to a live presenter by phone or through the speakers on your computer while watching their visual presentation on a computer screen. Typically, these sessions offer time during or after the presentation for you to ask questions and make comments just as you might during an in-person class.Examples:Look for announcements about upcoming webinars on trusted websites such as the Family Caregiver Alliance website (www.Caregiver.org), the Alzheimer's Association website (www.alz.org), andAgingCare.com.

Safety:What if you could set up two mobile devices that communicated with each other? One might be on your smart phone and the other installed safely on your loved one―in their shoe or on the back of their belt to help locate them should they become lost due to severe memory loss. This is now possible with GPS devices that can be programmed and personalized for your situation. For long-distance caregiving, programmable webcams and video conferencing might offer you and your loved one reassurance and peace of mind, just being able to see each other, or provide early warning if something doesn't look right.Examples:Tell My Geo,Skype,Google Chat.

Exercise and Nutrition:Mobile applications are making it easier for you to have a few more minutes to take care of you. Staying in touch by mobile phone allows you to go for a walk while you neighbor sits with your husband who has dementia. With an application that provides a selection of simple healthy meals, suggestions each morning help you decide what to make for dinner. You can also order your groceries online if you can't make it to the grocery store for a few days.Examples:My Fitness Pal,Pedometer apps,AllRecipe.com,SpecialFork (app).

Shopping for Goods and Services:If caregiving responsibilities keep you close to home much of the time, secure websites allow you to do your errands and shop for needed items online any time, day or night. Now more and more people are taking care of banking, bill-paying, clothes and appliance shopping, refilling prescriptions, movie and book purchases, and much more online. Examples:all major banks and credit unions;Amazon.com;Overstock.com,Zappos.com

Entertainment & Brain Games:Caregivers who experience chronic stress may be at greater risk for cognitive decline including loss in short-term memory, attention and verbal IQ. (Vitaliano) Finding time for entertainment―playing e-Scrabble with your niece across country or trying some of the free games available online can both engage your brain and add some enjoyment to your life.Examples: Words With Friends,AARP Free Brain Games,iScrabble.com

Next Steps

1.  Do a search online to read about the kinds of tools you are interested in (customer reviews can be invaluable), before going to an app store.

2.  Ask friends what websites or apps they find particularly useful.

3.  Visit a store where they sell electronic devices such as mobile phones. Ask a customer salesperson to guide you in testing the tool. Find out what type of follow-up help and free training they offer. For online tools and applications, search the internet or visit the e-marketplace found on your phone to try the tool and read ratings from other users.

4.  Seek out a family member, friend or service to provide technical assistance should you need it to get up and running or if you can't make your device do what you want it to do.

While there is a learning curve for some of these applications and programs, many people just like you find that their lives are improved and their isolation is reduced when they use technology. So we end with these short words of advice: Go ahead, give it a try! . . . You have everything to gain!

Family Caregiver Alliance
Tags: Technology, Safety,
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