According to AARP in 2019, 38% of family caregivers reported that their situation was “highly stressful”.
Caregiving is emotionally, physically, and financially taxing. However, for many caregivers, finding time for self-care can feel like one more task to squeeze into an already busy schedule.
Oftentimes, a caregiver's needs are pushed to the side and not prioritized. Obstacles that can impact a caregiver’s access to self-care tools include:
However, if caregivers do not take the time to themselves to focus on their own wellness, their role as caregivers can take a toll on their physical and mental health, which ultimately can negatively impact the loved one they're caring for.
According to AARP, some signs of caregiver burnout include symptoms such as:
All of these symptoms can have long-term effects on a caregiver’s wellness. It’s important to make time to explore interventions before these become detrimental.
Luckily, with the COVID-19 pandemic, more options for self-care have become available through technology. This has increased accessibility for caregivers who have limited time and the ability to leave their homes. Below are a few technological solutions that caregivers can take advantage of to help improve their well-being and quality of life.
Below are a few ways that technology can ease the impact of caregiving.
Knowledge is power. The more you know as a caregiver, the better you can understand and anticipate what your loved one is experiencing.
Online webinars can teach caregivers a variety of topics- from dementia or diabetes to hospice and palliative care.
Webinars can generally be watched live or as pre-recorded videos. If watching the webinar isn’t possible, they can also be listened to as podcasts with headphones.
There are many online caregiver resources available that provide disease education and caregiver support through reading material. Here are a few to consider:
In addition, there are resource finders that can help to identify senior care providers in your area. Resource Finders can assist you in finding home care agencies, long-term care providers, healthcare professionals, and more.
Care management websites can help to organize your care support team of family members and formal care providers, doctor’s appointments, and other caregiving tasks.
Some sites have companion apps for cell phones which can send notifications with reminders for appointments or even medication reminders.
Support groups offer emotional support as well as guidance with caregiving strategies and resources. Many individuals find it beneficial to meet in a group setting to discuss their shared experiences.
Caregiver support groups can be found online in the format of video chats (such as Zoom or Skype) or also as forums.
Taking care of your mental health as a caregiver is crucial to maintaining caregiver endurance. There are online platforms that offer therapy sessions, as well as many local therapists who offer telehealth to their patients.
Caregivers should take advantage of telemedicine for both themselves and their loved ones when possible.
Participating in telemedicine can decrease the stress of having to ensure your loved one is en route to their doctor appointments on time. Many healthcare professionals now offer telemedicine as appropriate.
Many health systems offer a healthcare portal that allows the care recipient or trusted caregiver access to health records, communication with healthcare professionals, and more through an easy-to-use, convenient app.
Technological solutions such as wearable devices, smart home gadgets, and remote monitoring tools can give a caregiver peace of mind. They are beneficial whether the caregiver is a long-distance caregiver or is simply out of the home for a short period of time.
Regardless, the below caregiving technology gadgets can simplify and increase safety for your loved one’s daily life - ultimately improving caregiver wellness.
GPS trackers are helpful tools for individuals with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia who may be at risk of wandering.
Some fitness trackers and other wearable gadgets can provide remote monitoring for health signs such as blood pressure, heart rate, and sleep hygiene.
Smart home devices such as Amazon’s Alexa devices can allow caregivers to have access to their loved one’s home and monitor temperature, visitors, stove usage, and more in real time. This allows caregivers to have better insight into their loved one’s day to day and is especially beneficial for caregivers of people living with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia.
Medication management can be stressful and time-consuming. An automatic medication dispenser can offer an older adult support with remembering to take medication. Additionally, there are systems to have medications mailed to your loved one’s home, organized, and ready to be utilized.
As a caregiver for an older adult, finding ways to delegate tasks and reduce stress is key to ensuring that care can be provided in the long run. Technology is an excellent solution to many of the common obstacles that caregivers face when trying to implement self-care.
Laurel McLaughlin has over a decade worth of experience in various sectors of the elder care field- home care, senior living, and non-profits. She has a Master’s in Gerontology and is a certified dementia practitioner.
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