Empowering the caregiver is about providing the tools and resources to make you stronger and more confident in managing your unique situation. As discussed in our opening article, What is Assistive Technology for Alzheimer’s?, Caregiver Empowerment is the second of four categories on technology relating to the Alzheimer’s care partnership.
Although primitive by comparison to today’s high-tech, a health journal, wall calendar, and a pen and paper might just do the job. However, when caring for someone with Alzheimer’s while still balancing the different aspects of a career, family, and personal life, you need more help.
Empowerment is achieved through self-education, organization, and coordination. When these 3 items are applied, the resulting action is in the best interest of the care partnership. This results in a better well-being for all involved including the person with Alzheimer’s.
Short of having a robotic personal assistant, high-tech really isn’t that advanced when we discuss these items. In fact, most of the technology in this area involves a combination of computer (yes, a smart phone or tablet is a computer), software, and internet – sometimes referred to as webtools.
Now I realize a holistic approach to empowerment would also include things such as maintaining proper emotional and physical health along with getting adequate support. But for the sake of this article we will be discussing hi-tech as it relates to helping you, the caregiver, take appropriate action through:
1) Self education
Knowledge is your number one tool! So unless you are trained in caring for a person with Alzheimer’s, you need to continue learning. But you’re busy so you need that learning to be easy and convenient.
Probably the greatest advance in the last 20 years is the internet which has brought the world’s libraries and publications to our finger tips. We can even get the data in text, video, or audio format. And with a smart phone or tablet, we can easily access this knowledge while on the go.
One device that I have grown to love as an educational tool is the ebook reader (Kindle or Nook for instance). For under $100 (my Kindle cost $60) you can have a device that allows you to easily download books or articles to read at anytime, anywhere – even in bright sunlight! Throw it in your purse and go.
YouTube is a free service where you can watch countless videos on various topics. Anything from how to prepare an advanced directive to how to deal with a behavioral issue during the later stages.
There are also some smart phone apps out there that claim to help the caregiver learn but to be honest, I have yet to find one that I would personally use. Let me know in the comments if you recommend one!
As the caregiver for someone, you now need to worry about the legal, financial, insurance, and medical aspects of their life. It’s hard enough to keep your own information straight so it’s vital that you put systems in place to have their information organized and readily available. This will result in fewer mistakes and a happier you.
There are organizations which provide software and/or a single repository for this data to be stored. These cloud-based solutions allow easy access to the information at all times from anywhere around the world. For instance, there’s Safely Filed or even Microsoft has their Health Vault (I have not tried either). Sometimes, however, you may just want to use a spreadsheet and store the info on the cloud yourself.
If you want to survive as the primary caregiver for your parent, you need to have help. This support may come from friends, family, or professionals. There are a lot of moving parts and it’s extremely important that everyone is on the same page. A handful of companies have developed sophisticated systems to allow the members of the care circle to provide updates so that everyone is notified. Most of these are available as an app for your smart device. Remember, however, a simple email to the care team will suffice in many cases.
The solutions for organizing and coordinating tend to overlap. I have tried only a couple such as Connect Caregiver (a collaboration between GE & Intel) or The Alzheimer’s Association’s Navigator but found them to be a little confusing and not too user friendly. There are several more out there that I have not tried but show promise, and here are a couple: Caregiver’s Touch and Care Zone.
As you can see, there really aren’t any hi-tech gadgets (that I’ve discovered) to aid in this area of need. There are, however, some solutions to help the caregiver by providing services that combine the need to manage the many aspects of caregiving in one solution.
But don’t forget, sometimes the best tech, is low-tech!
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Do you know of any hi-tech that can assist caregivers in managing the many aspects of caregiving? Please share below and let’s explore their potential.