The pressure on the healthcare system is greater than ever before, forcing friends and family members to become primary caregivers. New technologies such as smart homes biomonitors and AI assistants are establishing themselves as essential tools in aiding these new caregivers. The technology of caring explores these solutions and how they could make our lives better.

My hope for the future is that technology will make people who require caregiving more independent so that people can remain independent and live in their own houses or have a certain aspect of their life which is not taken away from them.

Technology has been available for teaching carers for a while now, with things such as online training for healthcare. A lot of nurses are using portals such as these for gaining more awareness of dementia, Alzheimer’s and other age-related illnesses. For a generation that didn’t grow up with it, the introduction of new technology can be overwhelming. Understanding how technology is used is just the start but it’s a crucial step in learning what will work for you. We live in a world with high-tech options all around us but how do we know what to use and who to go to for help?

Less than a year ago I had a health issue with what turned out to be a stroke and I was hospitalized for a month. I couldn’t have come home without assistance in the house. I was using a walker, so I was really reliant on someone else to care for me. I wasn’t brave enough to use the technology that was there, so I really relied on my friends and yes I had three sons and they did their best but they all work. Those people who are not trained caregivers were thrust into a caregiving role.

About five years ago we found out that my dad had ALS and so that was my family’s introduction to being family caregivers and things moved quite quickly with his illness. We learned a lot but as things moved quickly we were only able to kind of manage what we could, which made learning new technology virtually impossible at that moment in time.

He passed away five years ago and one year ago, my mom had a stroke out of the blue and so we were kind of revisiting what it meant as a family to look at caregiving and how we were going to manage full-time jobs and families and also make sure that my mom was taken care of. There certainly is a challenge with new technology because they’re not aware of it.

Who’s going to tell you about it?

You have to find the right source for that. How do you keep up with technology when you’re just dealing day to day with the demands of life and you really don’t have time? Finding the time is one of the challenges of the whole aspect of caring for somebody. You only have so much time in the day so it’s hard.

I’m the family tech support and that offers us a chance to spend time together which is nice but also allows me the opportunity to gauge where she’s at with technology, what her comfort level is and where we can explore new technology or what might just be too intimidating and complex.

Where I see technology increasingly playing a role in supporting caregivers is around the concept that you can’t scale human time like you can technologies or products. I think as we approach this impending caregiver cliff, health care systems are completely overburdened by the number of individuals who are ageing and the increased care that they require.

We’re starting to see that burden being pushed onto families and on to friends and neighbours. Technology is an opportunity for those caregivers to claw back some of the time and ultimately allow somebody to live in their home for longer and safer.

I really see that artificial intelligence is going to play a much bigger role in terms of determining what’s going to happen to help keep seniors safe at home in terms of predictive analytics. For example, if a senior is going to fall or if they pass out, we’re seeing a lot with Google and Amazon Alexa and those types of voice command technologies. Right now, the technology is focused on the general consumer market, but we’re now starting to see voice control technologies become adopted to help seniors.

I think a lot of developers are looking at modifying existing off-the-shelf consumer products to address specific caregiver issues as a way of getting products to market quickly. As time goes on I think we’re going to just be relying on technology more and more and the more I can work with my mom and she can become comfortable with, it the less intimidating it’s going to be. It’s only going lead to more independence moving forward.