How Technology Will Revolutionize Long Term Care

Technology will give people who require Long Term Health Care additional choices to make their life better. Many Long-Term Care Insurance policies will provide benefits to pay for advances in technology that may become available.

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How Technology Will Revolutionize Long Term Care
5 Min Read June 30th, 2015 Updated:May 30th, 2020

Since this article was originally published, there have been many advances in technology that benefit those who require long-term care services and supports. These advances make it easier for family and, in many cases, allow people to stay in their own homes longer. Many Long-Term Care Insurance policies will help pay for some of these advances both today and in the future.

The virus crisis accelerated some of these advances in technology. For example, six new nurse robots went to work, helping their human counterparts. These robots helped COVID-19 patients at the Circolo Hospital in Varese, Italy.

In the years and decades ahead, these advances will also help those needing long-term care services either in their home or in a facility.

Future is Here

 According to the JMark Journal of Information Technology, there are five significant advances in this area. These include:

  • GPS devices - These help a person who has Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia to be found quickly if they wander. 
  • Emergency Response Systems – You might recall seeing commercials that an elderly person yells out, "I've fallen and can't get up." The person presses a button to summon help in an emergency. 
  • Medication Reminders – These are applications that remind a person or their caregiver about an upcoming dosage for their medications.
  • Video Phones/FaceTime – There are several easy to use devices that allow a friend, family member, or medical professional to speak with a person using video. A person might be saying they are fine, but the picture tells a different story.
  • Wireless Home Monitoring – This allows a remote person to monitor what is happening in the home, including alerting if there is no movement or a person is in the bathroom too long, etc. 

Many Long-Term Care Insurance Policies May Pay for Future Tech

When planning for the financial costs and burdens that come with getting older, advanced technology will be a significant partner in the caregiving team. 

Affordable Long-Term Care Insurance, in many cases, will help pay for these technologies giving you more choices and independence. 

The average long-term care resident, whether in a nursing home or assisted-living facility, is in his or her 80s or 90s and suffering from one or more serious physical or cognitive limitations. 

Getting Wired

Aside from a few computer-savvy people, most of these individuals need help getting wired. In addition to the Music and Memory program, several other initiatives have begun using iPods, iPads, and other tablets to bring sensory and cognitive stimulation to residents who are otherwise bored, restless, or in search of some purpose in the moment. 

For example, a pilot study at the University of California, San Diego found that iPads were safe and effective in reducing agitation in patients with dementia. These same tablets are increasingly being used by family members to connect grandma or grandpa with distant family and friends via networks like Skype. 

Telemedicine and telepsychiatry use similar but more souped-up technology to bring specialists such as geriatric psychiatrists to the bedside of nursing home residents in underserved areas.

Wearable Technology Offers Safety 

Wearable technology in the form of bracelets, shoe and ankle attachments, or lanyards are widely used to enhance safety in various facilities, whether through remote alarms activated at the push of a button or passive systems that either denote the location or prevent egress from the facility by inactivating doors or elevators. 

This wearable technology is undoubtedly on the verge of an explosion in which a host of physiological indexes such as daily motor activity, sleep, and vital signs can be monitored in real-time. 

For example, a 2013 study by Mayo researchers fitted post-surgical patients with Fitbits to track daily activity and correlate it with recovery time. Other researchers have begun using a combination of wearables, environmental sensors and Kinect cameras to track activity in long-term-care settings, and then apply this to a whole range of tasks such as detecting depression, sleep disorders and other present or impending illnesses.

There are two barriers to the wider introduction of these technologies into long-term care: costs and privacy issues. Even donated iPods require maintenance, troubleshooting, and safeguarding, all of which incur staff time that is costly and not reimbursable.

High-end products like the Fitbit and Apple Watch may not be affordable—or necessarily practical—in most nursing homes, but one can imagine simpler and less expensive versions eventually being worn by every resident to facilitate resident to staff communication and centralize a host of data collection that feeds right into the important metrics and quality indicators required by federal regulations.

This data collection by wearables, video links or other sources must conform to privacy rules, however, dictated in part by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA. 

Such compliance is critical to preserving residents' dignity and confidentiality and managing potential liability (hence the concerns about having Web-based cameras placed throughout nursing homes). In addition, compliance does come with significant development costs and ongoing monitoring by individuals well-versed in a complex array of regulations, all of which are out of the reach of most long-term-care facilities, particularly those reliant on Medicaid, a prime funder for its residents.

Ultimately, the growth of technology in long-term care will be driven by the residents themselves. In the future, long-term-care residents will be bringing their own technology into facilities and expecting to be wired in.

Parts of this article originally appeared on the blog section of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Marc Agronin (@MarcAgronin), is a geriatric psychiatrist and the author of "How We Age: A Doctor's Journey into the Heart of Growing Old." He is the medical director for mental health and clinical research at Miami Jewish Health Systems and an affiliate associate professor of psychiatry and neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

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About the Author

An LTC News author focusing on long-term care and aging.

LTC News Contributor James Kelly

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Editor's Note

Your health and budget are tied together. As you age, you should be concerned about the growing cost of long-term health care. Changes in health, mobility, and memory lead to a need for long-term care, and those costs can be significant. 

There is now an additional concern for new taxes to address the pressure on each state's Medicaid budgets. The State of Washington has already implemented the so-called LTC Tax on residents without qualified Long-Term Care Insurance in place. Several other states are pursuing their own LTC Tax, including:

  • California
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If you live in one of those states, you should consider taking proactive action to at least avoid the tax. The tax would be placed on 100% of earned income. The primary benefit of Long-Term Care Insurance is to protect your 401(k) and other assets from rising long-term health care expenses. Avoiding a tax is an added bonus.

Find Professional Help When Shopping for LTC Coverage

Long-Term Care Insurance comes in various types and options. In accordance with Section 7702(b) of U.S. Code, tax-qualified Long-Term Care Insurance policies include significant consumer protections, regulated benefit triggers, and tax incentives. However, many general insurance agents and financial advisors lack proper training on these products, underwriting, and policy design.

In addition, residents of certain states who don't own a qualified LTC Insurance policy are subject to a tax. To navigate the numerous options, you need the assistance of a knowledgeable Long-Term Care Insurance specialist. Additionally, a specialist can assist you in discovering the most cost-effective option based on your age, health, and family history.

Locate a specialist you can rely on who has dealt with all the top companies and understands underwriting, policy design, and claims - Work With a Specialist.

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There is a lot of misinformation or incorrect information about long-term health care planning on the internet. Not every insurance agent or financial advisor has the expertise to assist you with long-term care planning. LTC NEWS can help.

The  Frequently Asked Questions section of LTC NEWS addresses the most frequently asked issues concerning long-term health care planning.

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Curious how much Long-Term Care Insurance costs? Learn more here - How Much Does Long-Term Care Insurance Cost?

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If your older parents or family members are declining and need help now, what can you do to help? You can get help finding quality caregivers or long-term care facilities and get recommendations for a proper care plan, whether or not they have an LTC policy. - Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim | LTC News

If your loved one is lucky enough to own a Long-Term Care Insurance policy, be sure they use it. Sometimes families wait, thinking they can save the benefits for a rainy day. Waiting on using available Long-Term Care Insurance benefits is not a wise idea. 

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