Monitoring via Technology: Steps to Take Now

September 11, 2013
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If you’re a Baby Boomer thinking it will be easy to find a family member or friend to assist you as an unpaid caregiver when you are in your 80s—think again.  Facts show, there just aren’t going to be enough younger people to help the huge Boomer population grow old in their own homes.

If you’re a Baby Boomer thinking it will be easy to find a family member or friend to assist you as an unpaid caregiver when you are in your 80s—think again.  Facts show, there just aren’t going to be enough younger people to help the huge Boomer population grow old in their own homes.

baby boomer health

A solution

A recently released report by the  AARP Public Policy Institute shows that within the next 20 years, when boomers are in their 80s and need caregiving, there simply won’t be a sufficient number of people to help them.

“More than two-thirds of Americans believe they will be able to rely on their families to meet their needs when they need long term care,” said Lynn Feinberg, AARP Senior Policy Analyst and one of the report’s authors, “but this confidence is likely to deflate when it collides with the dramatically shrinking availability of family caregivers in the future.”

Consider these findings: In 2010, there were 7.2 potential family caregivers (ages 45-64 or the average age of caregivers) for every person age 80-plus. In 2030, that caregiver ratio will drop to 4 to 1 and by 2050, when all boomers will be in late life, the ratio becomes less than 3 to 1. In 2050, there will be three times as many people age 80-plus as there are today.

Sobering statistics yes—futile no.  Since most people want to stay in their own homes as they age because it is more comfortable and cheaper than a facility, it’s important that Boomers take proactive steps to stay current on technology.  Regular use of today’s simple smartphone technology will make it easier to learn telehealth technology in the future.

What is Telehealth Technology?

Telehealth technologies allow people to monitor their day-to-day health status, keep track of blood pressure, weight, heart activity, blood sugar, medication compliance and general well-being through mobile apps on their smartphones and tablets.  The results are automatically sent to the person’s doctor or other healthcare provider. This allows for quick detection of a change of health condition.

Why is Telehealth Technology Important?

As the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is implemented, doctors will be required to see more Medicare and Medicaid patients via technology.  Earlier this year the market research firm  InMedica  estimated that 1.8 million patients will use telehealth technology by 2017.

 It reported that in 2012—308,000 patients were monitored via telehealth technology for:

  • Congestive heart failure
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Mental health conditions

The report also found:

  • Congestive heart failure accounts for the largest group of telehealth patients; and
  • COPD accounts for the second largest group of telehealth patients.

Since 72 percent of Boomers already suffer from at least one chronic disease, it is easy to see how the numbers will escalate rapidly.

Drivers of Telehealth Growth

In the report, InMedica stated the following factors for telehealth expansion:

  • Federal policies will penalize hospitals based on readmission rates
  • Health care providers want to increase ties with patients and improve care quality
  • Insurers that want to increase their competitiveness and reduce inpatient payouts by working directly with telehealth providers to monitor patients
  • Patients will demand telehealth technology for a wider variety of conditions

Easy Steps Boomers Can Take Now

  • Toss the flip phone and replace it with a smartphone
  • Explore the smartphone; learn to use all of the apps.
  • Download a game like CandyCrushSaga or BeJeweledBlitz both free and available on all mobile platforms, to have fun and learn navigation.
  • If you want more of a challenge, try these free apps Words with Friends or Cranium Crunches.
  • Download a free simple health and fitness app like LoseIt or MyFitnessPal and use it for a while, just for the experience.
  • If you suffer from a chronic disease, search the app store for pertinent apps.  Read about them.  If you see one you really like, discuss it with your doctor.
  • Engage your doctor in conversations about telehealth.  Express your interest.
  • If you are a current family caregiver, learn about  available aging-in-place technology tools on  sites like Caring.com

Above all, don’t take the laissez-faire approach of “I don’t care” or “I’ll worry about it later.”  Boomers have never lived like that.  Traits that define Boomers are confidence, independence and self-reliance.  Show your strength. Step it up, fellow Boomers: let’s grab a hold of our health today through technology—while we’re still young enough to learn.

(healthy, happy boomers / shutterstock)

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