Aging with independence and dignity: How IoT solves the challenges of caregiving

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By Oksana Mikhalchuk

Senior care in most cases involves people with no medical training of any kind, including family friends, neighbors, and relatives. 39% of American adults are caregivers, regardless of  their employment situation or education. 

That means most tasks they perform are housekeeping-related, far from complex medical or nursing procedures. When such institutional care is not necessary, costly, or excessive, IoT in healthcare offers an alternative system that is automated, accessible, and intuitive. 

Caregiver availability 

When a visiting caregiver is away temporarily or permanently, IoT technology can still ensure their constant participation in a patient’s life. Even when a helping hand is a phone call or a message, IoT-enabled assistance autonomously supports seniors in daily decision-making and in various activities, which are often not health-related.

Shopping, cleaning, and even gardening still contribute to the person’s overall well-being, even if their health condition isn’t directly affected. A smart home infrastructure with interconnected robot vacuums and smart lawn removers successfully takes care of those errands in a faster and sometimes neater way — and can be pre-programmed for weeks ahead.

In case the person is unwilling or physically unable to use the technology on their own, they can outsource the control over appliances and alarm systems to their family or assigned caregivers. This will help to avoid intimidating experiences with technology and maintain independence on a daily basis.

Limited mobility 

Case studies show that routine actions like answering phone calls or saying “no” to door-to-door salesmen several times a day provoke anxiety in older people, especially when they suffer from functional limitations like spatial coordination, difficulties in bending, or poor vision. The fear originates from the danger of causing injuries by going downstairs or seeking a light switch in a dimly lit space — not to mention that doing things in your senior years takes significantly more time.

To facilitate physical effort on checking the front door or adjusting the lighting around the house, there are smart locks and video doorbells. The sensor system and camera require maintenance once every few months like changing the batteries, which is suitable for a person living alone but having infrequent visitors.

The resident or their caregivers can monitor the data streams from the sensors and cameras on mobile devices and make alterations in the corresponding apps. Researchers note positive outcomes: with safety under control, family members feel more at ease and care recipients report increased confidence.

Access to checkups and emergency care

Constant medical surveillance, as well as personal caregivers, are not a service everyone can afford or organize. By enabling smart reminders about medications, procedures, and various everyday activities like exercises or bathroom breaks, IoT makes life more structured and guided for patients struggling with self-care and progressing chronic conditions like declining mobility or memory.

Some devices are able to respond to an emergency faster than any caregiver. For example, Apple Watch devices register hard falls and the following immobility that lasts longer than 30 seconds. If the person’s vitals are inadequate and there’s no response to the sound signal, the notification with the patient’s health profile is dispatched automatically to the emergency contacts or emergency services.

If a senior is not keen on the idea of any gear that requires tactile interaction and repetitive setup, there are voice-activated home assistants that can be taught to make emergency calls to specific contacts. Family and caregivers can help with scheduling reminders and collecting health data remotely without any additional efforts from care recipients.

Add well-deserved comfort to the caregiving routine using IoT

IoT-driven solutions allow care recipients to grow old with dignity, keeping an elderly person sane and mobile for as long as possible. When their families are away, a virtual companion offers a helping hand in housekeeping, ensures peace of mind, and encourages them to continue being physically active and independent according to their health status.

Oksana Mikhalchuk is a Technology Writer at Oxagile, a New York-based provider of next-gen software engineering solutions around IoT, AI, computer vision, biometrics, and more. Oksana creates content about state-of-art tech opportunities in healthcare, education, entertainment, and manufacturing. 

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