Time to get smart about elder care - MedCity News

The aged care industry is currently experiencing an accelerated transformation driven by the events of the past two years. Given where we are now, it’s clear that the expectations of older people have not just adapted, they’ve exceeded the current climate, mainly in areas like technology.

Last year, skilled nursing facilities and long-term care centers followed social distancing and lockdown guidelines in an effort to keep their residents safe. Although effective, these measures have shown that the underlying technology can no longer support the quality of care that these facilities need to provide, and likewise fail to keep residents satisfied. Thus, what residents look for in SNFs and other long-term care facilities has changed. And there is a reason.

What older people want from transformative technologies

Despite society’s perception of baby boomers, research showed that these seniors have become a very tech-savvy generation. Four out of five seniors rely on technology to keep in touch with family and friends. About 80 percent use their tech devices to access critical medical information. And many of them shop, entertain and also do research online.

While they are not necessarily as tech-savvy or ingrained as younger generations, their knowledge and experience with technology has led to higher expectations that the seniors industry must now meet. Elderly patients no longer see technical solutions as a commodity, they are now an essential part of their lifestyle and care.

This means that skilled nursing facilities and long-term care facilities must implement technology that makes life easier for their residents. Devices like voice-activated remotes that allow residents to control their TVs to facility-wide CCTV systems that let them know how crowded certain areas are bring increased convenience that can change their entire stay.

Facilities must become smart

When used in addition to other technological conveniences, smart technology can increase control, accessibility and personalization, among other benefits. If you’re not already increasing your technology budgets, you’re falling behind the rest of the industry. 80 percent of senior living facilities reported that they have increased their spending and adoption efforts in the foreseeable future.

Yet, investing in more technology is pointless without understanding how its implementation will be valuable to your patients, staff and organization. Consider this criterion: Is it easy? Is it helpful? Does it provide instant results? Is it connected to everything else in your facility? If your smart technology checks all these boxes, it’s a good fit.

Smart thermostats are a great example of this. They may seem like a trivial accommodation, but it simplifies the temperature control process, offers instant comfort for each individual occupant, and creates a seamless experience throughout the facility. There are a host of other smart technologies that are also improving senior care.

Bed sensors built into residents’ mattresses can monitor heart rate, detect movement and track breathing rate, and can immediately notify health care staff of anything wrong. Digital medicine dispensers are another great item. While nurses typically monitor medications, these smart devices can help seniors take control of their regimens by giving them pills at the right time and alerting them if they forget to take them. These digital dispensers, which can hold a 90-day supply of 15 different medications, also alert residents and staff when it’s time to refill their long-term use pills.

These are just a few examples of how smart technology is transforming residential care in SNFs and long-term care facilities. Maybe some of these devices will work in your facility, maybe not. Just because smart technologies offer added convenience doesn’t mean they’ll be one-size-fits-all for every center. What will work for your organization will depend on the unique needs of your residents, as well as the types of services you offer and the layout of your facility.

Act now or risk being left behind

The past two years have highlighted the importance of technology more than ever. As more seniors embrace the benefits of technology, SNFs and long-term care facilities have a responsibility to their residents to implement life-saving and life-changing smart technologies that are revolutionizing senior care.

It is time for facilities to reevaluate their current offerings and modernize their offerings to meet this new, expanded need for better technology solutions. How your center adapts to this new climate will establish your commitment to the future of senior care and will either set you apart from other centers or undermine your success in the industry.

Technology and healthcare are a package deal. Are you on board?

Photo: Mario Arango, Getty Images

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