Home Care Providers: Educators for Connected Seniors

Published March 29, 2017

According to HomeAdvisor’s 2016 Aging in Place report, sixty-seven percent of homeowners over the age 55 believe technology could enable healthy aging in place, but less than nineteen percent have actively purchased such technology solutions. These statistics from the 2016 report reveal important insights on the future of healthy older adults aging. Although a majority of seniors believe in technology, barriers to engagement and technology in our current healthcare system are wide and deep, but not unbeatable. Previous research has acknowledged that over fifty percent of consumers are weary about the benefits of healthcare information technologies, which include patient portals, mobile applications and electronic health records. For seniors to adapt to these, home care providers can address hesitations and become an educational resource for an older generation who is looking for guidance.

While the 2016 report focused on home improvement and modifications, it also demonstrated the clear hesitance in aging adults to voluntarily adopt new health technologies on their own. This is regardless of if they are currently healthy or suffering from illnesses and chronic diseases. On the front lines, providers of care in the home can facilitate patient comfort and engagement with technology by educating, teaching and ultimately empowering older adults and their caregivers to practice better healthcare management and coordination using technology. This not only ensures successful care at home, but also aids in discharge coordination and other tasks that hospital providers must expedite on their own. Home care providers can also appeal to the caregiver population who might one day need support systems that incorporate technology. The effective widespread use of new technology tools today and in the future will further necessitate increased data sharing, patient education and coordination across the patient care continuum.

The future, empowered and healthy adult will welcome conversations about goals, values and preferences for care and other information needed to manage health conditions. Home health care providers must work with this vision in mind. While the statistics mentioned above elucidate that there is an interest in technology, the current availability alone will not prompt aging adults to upgrade their existing homes or incorporate technology solutions into their existing lives. Home healthcare providers must prove the value of say, a medication adherence mobile application, or recommend which technology tools will aid in a very personalized plan of care for a patient. Since there is such an influx of new technology solutions, someone to provide beneficial recommendations will be needed. Unless a specific technology solution is contextualized for a home health patient, it will likely never appeal to or be utilized by the patient. The technology industry has already started developing solutions that are easier to use for older adults, which could aid home health providers in how they communicate value to their patients.

For example, a simple wearable attached to an aging parent’s clothes that alerts family and friends that the senior is going up and down the stairs, is beneficial for multiple reasons. A home care provider could encourage usage of this wearable by explaining how it can serve as a reminder for the senior to hold the side rails and be cautious on the stairs. Doing this could prevent falls and further injury. The wearable’s ability to alert family and friends of this action helps combat loneliness and isolation that many seniors living alone feel. This wearable can serve as a symbol to the senior that his or her family and friends are aware of and connected to the patient’s actions. If home care providers can demonstrate value with various reasons like this, they are optimizing the entire care continuum.

Hospitals are constantly looking for ways to engage the patient post discharge. Home care providers can assure that patients know how to use and will benefit from specific technology solutions. Reinforcement and reminders through technology applications keeps patients in their homes, the places where they want to rest and heal. Additionally, this ensures the proper framework to support aging in place. Once the transition from hospital to home with the help of technology is successful, patients can feel empowered and encouraged to ask their own questions and fully engage in care plans.