Technology has been revolutionized to become an everyday essential for us, impacting as many domains of life—from watching television, to shopping, to how we drive our cars—as we can think of. Recently, technology has become even more and more integrated with healthcare.
Although a support network of family, friends, and resources is crucial to caregiving, sometimes you need more to help lighten the load. Caregivers often feel the need to have someone with their loved one 24/7, which can leave them with a constant feeling of uneasiness that takes precedence over other priorities. It is important to remember that technology can be used to relieve some of the stresses that come with caregiving, so long as you look for and use the right tools.
To stay organized, utilize mobile apps to help keep everyone in the loop on your loved one’s day-to-day status. Caregiver apps specifically allow you to keep records of names, phone numbers, email addresses, and services that are involved in your family member’s care. Such apps also feature calendars that allow you to make a weekly or monthly chart of appointments, visits, and other scheduled activities. The point of these apps is to bring together all the information and resources that family caregivers need to know in order to maximize the caregiving experience for those involved.
To find a caregiving coordination app that best suits you, reference these lists from AARP and Where You Live Matters.
Caregiver Marketplace & Help
Sometimes the demands of caregiving can be a bit much, especially when you have other responsibilities—such as your career or young children—that you need to care for as well. In that case, look into hiring caregivers via mobile applications. You can think of these apps as online marketplaces in which you can screen, interview, and hire caregivers for your loved ones on your own terms.
An example of an app you can hire caregivers from is Kindly Care, which allows individuals to search for and manage local caregivers. With Kindly Care, you can set your own price and conduct interviews for potential caregivers for your loved one. Other resources which you can use to search for help would be the websites Home Instead and A Place for Mom. Although these resources are not mobile applications, you can visit the sites on any smart device or computer. Home Instead sets you up with a caregiving advisor who can help you arrange a care schedule and caregiver that works for you and your loved one. Similarly, A Place for Mom connects you with an advisor who can help you find the kind of care community that best suits you.
Self-Care: Meditation & Relief
Although it can be difficult and even guilt-inducing to make time for yourself as a caregiver, it is still important to be able to prioritize your own health in order to prevent what is known as caregiver burnout. According to WebMD (n.d.), caregiver burnout is defined as “a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that may be accompanied by a change in attitude – from positive and caring to negative and unconcerned.” In taking care of yourself, not only do you positively impact your wellbeing but also that of everyone else who is involved in the caregiving process.
According to AARP’s 2015 Caregiving in the U.S. report, 38 percent of caregivers consider their situation to be highly stressful. Furthermore, nearly half of this high-stress group provides more than 20 hours of care each week. A study of family caregivers found that those who experience caregiving-related stress have a 63 percent higher mortality rate than non-caregivers of the same age (Bursack, 2018; Sollitto, 2018).
Once a caregiver has been burnt out, it can be very difficult for the individual to get back to their normal selves. Some signs of caregiver burnout include:
- Constant sadness, hopelessness, and increased crying
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- A lack of interest in hobbies or things they normally enjoyed
- Exhaustion, insomnia, and other health impacts
Caregiver burnout can severely impact your daily living, so it is best to take measures to prevent yourself from reaching that breaking point through self-care. Thankfully, there are a number of apps available that are targeted to help alleviate stress, no matter what form it may take.
For a list of mindfulness and/or meditation apps, reference these lists from Mindful, Kaiser Permanente, and Top Counseling Schools.
It is important to be able to relay messages to others involved in the care process quickly and effectively. Or maybe you just want to keep everyone connected by sending pictures or videos of an event or trip you went on for vacation. Thankfully there are many free instant messaging applications that we can use whether the person we want to contact is a city, state, or even continent over.
To find a messaging app that best suits you, reference these lists from Toms Guide, Lifewire, Android Authority, and Redbytes.
In case something happens, caregiving technology can help provide updates on your loved one even when you are not with them. With the advent of smart home technology, monitoring your home has become easier than ever, giving you peace of mind when it comes to leaving your household and still being able to watch over your care recipient. Many smart cameras come with software that can be accessed via your computer or smart device.
As smart home technology varies in capabilities between devices, price points can differ greatly. When looking into these devices, look at what each one can offer you and make a decision based on what features you will realistically use.
For a list of smart home cameras, reference these lists from Cnet, For the Smart Home, and Product Hunt.
Caregiving is no longer a task that has to be limited to resources that are only within reach locally – statewide and nationwide resources have been made possible to access via the Internet.
The website Community Resource Finder allows you to look for community and medical services as well as AARP and Alzheimer’s Association programs if you wish to attend those. With just a search, you can find resources both near and far to address your caregiving needs.
Online support groups are most beneficial in the times when caregivers cannot leave their family member or the loved one cannot also attend – a reality lived by many, if not most, family caregivers.
Use an online resource like AgingCare’s Caregiver Forum, where people from all over connect and help answer other fellow caregivers’ questions. An online forum or support group may provide the mental, emotional and social respite that gets you through the day, as others can validate your experiences and emotions (DailyCaring Editorial Team, 2017). These intricate communities provide a place where caregivers can connect with one another and share tips, advice, and challenges. Best of all, you can interact with other caregivers from the comfort of home (Sollitto, 2017).
On Facebook, you can search for and join caregiver groups to get in touch with other family caregivers. In joining Facebook groups like these, you have the opportunity to ask questions and receive opinions from people of different backgrounds. There is a no-tolerance policy for judgment because these support groups are places to vent frustrations and look for guidance. It would be beneficial to “like” and follow any caregiving pages you find on Facebook, as they often post links to articles and other resources that may benefit you and your loved ones.
Keiro’s Call to Action
Technology has evolved so much over the past few years that it can be leveraged to fit just about any concern—mobile applications range from suiting very practical and common needs to those that are more specific. Although it can be intimidating to go through tons of apps, a tip to make it easier for yourself is to go through an app one-by-one, giving each 15 or so minutes to get acquainted with its features. If an app is not meeting your expectations within the first 15 minutes, drop it and give another one a go.
Remember: what is important is not necessarily understanding all the intricacies of an app or website, but that your specific caregiving needs are being met and that you gain a greater sense of peace and trust within yourself and your care situation.
Bursack, Carol Bradley. (2018, July 9). How to Identify and Minimize Caregiver Burden. Retrieved from: https://www.agingcare.com/articles/identifying-caregiver-burden-206799.htm
DailyCaring Editorial Team. (2017). 8 Benefits of Caregiver Support Groups. Retrieved from: https://dailycaring.com/8-benefits-of-caregiver-support-groups/
Sollitto, Marlo. (2017). Where to Find Respite: Resources for Caregivers. Retrieved from: https://www.agingcare.com/articles/where-to-find-respite-resources-121364.htm
Sollitto, Marlo. (2018, October 11). Strategies for Coping with Caregiver Stress. Retrieved from: https://www.agingcare.com/articles/strategies-for-coping-with-caregiver-stress-135916.htm
WebMD. (n.d.). What Is Caregiver Burnout? Retrieved from: https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/caregiver-recognizing-burnout#1