How Technology Will Revolutionize Long Term Care

Read Time: 4:58
Published: Jun 30th, 2015
How Technology Will Revolutionize Long Term Care
Article 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. You can read more by clicking here

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.

About the Author

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

Editor's Note

The question you need to ask is simple ... have you prepared your family and your finances for the financial costs and burdens of aging?

Do you want to place the full responsibility of your future caregiving on your adult children? Caregiving is a task which will change their life in many ways. Do you really want to have your children, or daughter-in-law, to be a caregiver and help you in the shower or bathroom? The fact is they have careers and their own families. It is challenging to balance these needs with that of being a caregiver.

Caregiving is Hard on Family

You want to stay in control and give your family the time to be family, loving, and supporting. There is a way to give your family time to be family. Affordable Long-Term Care Insurance gives you access to your choice of quality care in the setting you desire. Be able to stay in your own home or go to a quality facility, including assisted living. 

Don’t forget the asset protection the policy will provide. You will have tax-free resources to pay for your care. This means your income and savings will not be impacted. The cost of long-term care services continues to increase year after year. The cost of care is not cheap.

LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator

The cost of care varies depending on your location and the type of care you are receiving. You can find the current and future cost of long-term care services by using the LTC NEWS calculator. Find your location by clicking here.

Despite what you might think, Long-Term Care Insurance is very affordable. These policies are custom designed. Premiums can vary over 100% between companies for the exact same coverage. This is why you seek the assistance of a Long-Term Care Insurance specialist. Find a specialist by clicking here.

 Be sure to ask the specialist about several essential items:  

  • Partnership – Most states offer special policies that provide dollar-for-dollar asset protection. The Long-Term Care Insurance Partnership Program might be one of the best-kept secrets in retirement planning. Make sure the specialist explains this program and how it might help you.
  • Tax incentives – There are federal tax incentives available for some people. If you own your own business, be sure to ask.
  • Health Savings Accounts – If you have an HSA you can use the pre-tax money in your account to pay for the premium.
  • Asset-Based or Hybrid policies – These are life insurance or annuities with a rider for long-term care. Careful, only a handful are actually a long-term care benefit. However, one of these policies can provide you with the flexibility of both a long-term care benefit or a death benefit. They are expensive but can be paid with a single premium.

Make sure the specialist asks you detailed questions about your health, family history, and retirement plans. Underwritingcriteria vary with each insurance company. If they are not asking you detailed questions then find another specialist.

It is always best to start planning before you retire. Once you have your plan in place you will enjoy peace-of-mind, and your family will thank you decades from now.

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LTC News Contributor James Kelly
James Kelly

Contributor Since
August 21st, 2017

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

About the Author

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

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