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Computers and Caregiving: information, organization, connection
I could write a veritable tome on how technology can assist caregivers. Every situation is unique, but my inquiry on the subject leads me to believe there are three key elements of caregiving which are more or less universal: the need for information, organization, and social connection. Thankfully, we live in an age where the world wide web and related technologies are designed to facilitate just that.
Before diving into tools and apps, simply accessing the web—known as the ‘information highway’—can be revolutionary in the quest for medical knowledge. Websites like webMD, MayoClinic, and even user-driven chat forums empower care recipients and caregivers. On the web, users can find insight and guidance on everything from symptom development to treatment expectations to service recommendations. And, using web services to pay bills, order groceries and book transportation services can save enough time to squeeze in some reading and a cup of tea. If you’re one of the nearly 40% of adults over the age of 55 who struggles with internet use, the Senior Computer Tech Center (SCTC) can help bring you up to speed with peer-to-peer instruction on searching the web, organizing files, safe computing practices, password management, and more computer basics.
Of course, being on the internet can also mean information overwhelm when many experience enough of that in the daily demands of caregiving. The good news is that a number of apps that can help with organization. Although there’s no one-size-fits-all option, many tools on the market significantly streamline caregiving administration. CareZone and CareMind are two industry leaders offering a single repository for medication reminders, notes, calendar, to-do lists, and more. Even traditional project management applications can ease the struggle of tracking documents, reminders, medications, calendars and communications in one location. Best of all, several of these apps are free and the SCTC can provide one-on-one coaching on how to get the most out of them.
Finally, the most vital service that technology can provide is connection—to family, to friends, support groups, and community participation. People often feel there’s no online substitute for good, old fashioned face-to face meeting, but today’s tech tools provide virtual support from real friends. The connective power of Facebook private support groups, Skype video calling, text-message counseling, and community organization websites can offer on-demand stability in a moment of crisis and provide long-term support independent of location.
I’d be remiss in this introduction to caregiver technologies if I didn’t mention intelligent devices like Alexa, which provide hands-off voice-interactive entertainment, news, and games, or wearable tech like Fitbit, which can track heart rates, sleep cycles, or simply remind you to stretch your legs with a quick walk around the block. Further, robotic tech like medication dispensers and no-spill cups and spoons are just a couple of the devices that add to the caregiver’s technology toolkit. To learn more about caregiver tech or to get peer-to-peer computer help, check the Longmont Senior Center’s quarterly GO Catalog, give us a call at 303-651-8411, or visit longmontcolorado.gov/senior-services. Or, get started by downloading our at-a-glance guide for caregiver apps, software, and services.
Erica Illingworth is a marketing specialist for Longmont Senior Services and Longmont Recreation & Golf Services. She has a masters in web design & software development from Denver University and consults on communications design and technologies. This article was originally published in Care Connections, a publication of the Boulder County Area Agency on Aging.
- Updated: 07/22/2019