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Preserving Their Dignity: Utilizing Technology in Caregiving (Part 4 of 4)

At The Reutlinger Community, we strive to educate residents, future residents and adult children about all aspects of the dementia process and best practices for ensuring the best quality of life for your loved one – and yourself. In this four-part series, we discuss the importance of providing dignity throughout the dementia journey and how you can connect compassionately and in fulfilling ways.

We don’t always think of the words “seniors” and “technology” in the same sentence. But perhaps we all need to rethink that. As technology becomes more and more commonplace and integrated into our lives, it really shouldn’t be a surprise that it’s moving from “the cool new thing” to “a capability that can help everyone improve quality of life.” Think of the Apple Watch® with its fitness-tracking abilities, or apps that allow diabetics to read their blood sugar with the press of a button – and adjust insulin accordingly. Sure, being “plugged in” all the time can have its disadvantages. But it can also, surprisingly, provide safety and dignity, especially when it comes to caregivers and their senior loved ones.

“Obviously, the first thing that many caregivers use technology for is research and gathering information about how to help their loved one, but these days, that’s just scratching the surface,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “There are literally hundreds of applications and products available that can be used to help improve the caregiving experience and provide senior loved ones with a better quality of life.”

In fact, says Andrea, technology has the benefit of allowing seniors to be more independent and self-reliant than ever before. Technology can give seniors access to the world without them ever having to leave the house. “Apps like Facebook or Skype allow seniors to stay in touch with loved ones and interact with friends face-to-face without them having to be in the same room or time zone,” she says. “Other technologies can keep seniors safe, provide physical activity and encourage lifelong learning, just to name a few.”

The Benefits of Digital Technology for Caregivers

Caregiving for a loved one is a full-time job that often has to be juggled with other full-time jobs like careers, raising kids and everything else that comes with a full, separate life. That doesn’t leave a lot of spare time – but that’s just one of the ways that technology can help caregivers.

These days, technology allows you to outsource everything from the obvious (like housekeeping and yardwork) to the surprising (grocery shopping, transportation and even time management). Grocery delivery services are becoming more ubiquitous at local stores, and services like TaskRabbit make it easy to hire helpers for anything from house cleaning to assembling furniture to even being a part-time assistant. Services like Uber and Lift can help time-strapped caregivers coordinate transportation for senior loved ones who need to go to and from appointments or events.

There are plenty of senior- and caregiving-specific technologies that have been created to help caregivers and their loved ones live more freely, as well. Assistive technology devices (ATDs) like stairlifts, hearing aids, power scooters and wheelchairs, magnifying devices for computers and voice-controlled clocks with medication reminders are all things that can be used to streamline caregiving and take some of the heavy lifting off your shoulders (literally and figuratively).

The Benefits of Digital Technology for Seniors

Digital technology provides a variety of benefits for seniors, and that goes double for individuals with dementia. For example, wearable tech like tracking watches can help caregivers keep track of what’s going on with their loved ones even if they’re out running errands. Medical alert systems like bracelets or necklaces can allow seniors to call for assistance instantly. Here are some other ways that digital technology can assist with providing a better quality of life for your loved one with dementia:

  • Staying fit. Technology makes it easy to exercise mind, body and soul without ever having to leave the house. Video game systems like the Nintendo Wii allow for light-impact versions of favorite exercise like bowling, tennis and others (as well as more traditional aerobics and cardio). Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu and YouTube offer video series of practically any exercise you can imagine, plus meditation, calming exercises and therapy videos. And, of course, games like Words with Friends and other fun activities can help keep cognitive functions as sharp as possible while providing a bit of social interaction, too.
  • Promoting independence and dignity. Being able to accomplish tasks and use their existing abilities will boost your loved one’s self-esteem, can assist with slowing down cognitive decline, and also can help you relax a little, too. Simple things like smart pill boxes that alert seniors when it’s time to take medicine can allow your loved one to take his or her own pills without you having to manage it. Links to favorite apps or an easy way to access preferred entertainment can help seniors manage their time and do the things they enjoy, all on their own.
  • Providing security and helping reduce unwanted behaviors. Some technologies are specifically designed to help ease behaviors like anxiety, agitation and confusion. For example, clocks that have been designed to be easy to read will help someone who is confused easily and is worried about what day or time it is. Special power strips will monitor electrical appliances and can send alerts to caregivers if the stove, curling iron or other item has not been turned off. There are also personal assistance devices that can play reminders and messages to help manage and soothe your loved one with dementia, such as reminders to lock the door when they leave, or to provide reassurance when you aren’t available.
  • Helping communication. The Alzheimer’s Society reports that technologies like iPads and other interactive devices can help seniors with dementia to better express themselves through creativity and provide ways to communicate with their surroundings.
  • Memory-boosting. Exercising the mind can help stave off further cognitive decline and allow sharpening of abilities that remain. There are many games available now that have been specifically designed to help individuals with dementia. A surprising memory-booster that technology can help with is through music. It’s been proven time and time again that music can allow seniors to unlock memories of their past and can actually help improve communication. Satellite or internet radio can provide a ready-to-go playlist of favorites for your loved one to enjoy again and again.

For more information about using technology in the caregiving space, or to learn more about our community, our culture and our mission and values, please contact us at 925-272-0261

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

Offering Assisted LivingEnhanced Assisted LivingMemory CareSkilled Nursing and Rehabilitation, The Reutlinger Community provides a continuum of care that allows seniors to live a life-enhancing and stimulating environment. Located in Danville, California, The Reutlinger Community’s newly renovated, 110,000 square foot community combines the comfort and familiarity of home with seasoned senior care and skilled nursing specialists to suit any seniors needs, allowing them to live the life they choose with freedom and security.

Because we specialize in a continuum of care, our residents never need to worry about leaving the community they call home or wonder what will happen when they need some more care. Residents and families alike can have peace of mind knowing that there are full-time licensed nurses available, along with activity coordinators, social workers, caregivers, a concierge and Rabbi who focus solely on helping each resident thrive. Even better, our services and amenities are equal to those of a state-of-the-art resort. This is the lifestyle and care that your loved one deserves.

At The Reutlinger, seniors have numerous opportunities to engage in award-winning programs that are designed to engage the mind, renew the spirit and provide opportunities to meet new people and learn something new. Whether residents are enjoying our art program and museum, listening to a lecture or educational program or attending spiritual programming and our wide range of activities, there’s something for each resident to love. Participate as much or as little as you like, the choice is all yours.

For more information or to schedule a personal tour, contact us today.

Keeping Our Communities Current: How Modern Technology Can Improve Assisted Living

The Reutlinger Community: Carla Adamic

By Carla Adamic, The Reutlinger Community

 

Despite easily available evidence to the contrary, there is a persistent myth in our culture that seniors don’t do technology. The reality is that a majority of people over sixty-five have cell phones, use the internet, and use at least some form of social media. Seniors aren’t merely more tech savvy than people assume, they actively want the technology in their homes to be current. It’s important for senior living communities to keep their capabilities up to date and incorporate the latest technologies into their design.

 

Computer Access

Computer and technology centers are becoming more and more essential parts of senior living communities. Computers provide a way for seniors to keep in touch with their loved ones, catch up on news, work on personal projects, manage their finances and more.

 

Wi-Fi

Wireless internet has gone from a luxury to a necessity. While having access to a desktop or laptop computer allows for more in-depth interactions, more and more people are accessing the internet through cell phones and tablet computers. Indeed, the simple interfaces and easy portability of these devices often make them the preferred devices by many seniors who don’t need or want the complexity of a desktop PC.

 

Instruction

For many seniors the reason they avoid technology isn’t because they aren’t interested, but because they need patient instruction. At the Reutlinger Community, we have volunteers and speakers who help seniors learn instead of mocking their lack of prior knowledge.

 

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There are numerous benefits to giving seniors access to modern technology.

 

Connection

Some seniors live hundreds, even thousands of miles away from their families who live in different time zones and can’t readily interact in real time. E-mail and social media make it quick and easy to communicate whether it be about the latest 49ers game, holidays, family events or even just the weather. Programs like Skype and Facetime allow face to face communication across the country and even the world. Engagement is often said to be as important to graceful aging as keeping your body healthy.

 

Mental and Physical Health

There are numerous video games that provide both physical and mental benefits. The Nintendo Wii console, for example, offers simulated sports activities like tennis, bowling and golf which allow for physical exertion in a fun and safe environment at home or with friends. Other games help with hand-eye coordination, spatial recognition, fact recall, memory and more. Even better, many games can be played online with family and friends, stacking social benefits on top of mental and physical benefits.

 

Medication Management

While at the Reutlinger Community, we are able to take a hands-on approach to medication management, many seniors must manage on their own. There are numerous apps that can help seniors (and anyone else) track their medication use to prevent over or under-dosing. Learning how to use these apps can have a significant impact on a senior’s overall health.

 

Emergency Response

Many seniors have access to a PERS or a Personal Emergency Response System that allows them to summon medical help with the touch of a button. Other useful emergency technologies include GPS devices or global positioning systems that help seniors locate where they are and get directions to where they are going. These GPS systems can be linked to alert systems so that caregivers can easily find seniors when they need our help.

 

To learn more about how technology helps seniors and how we handle it in an assisted living environment, please visit our website at rcjl.org or call us at 925-648-2800.