The great American poet, Maya Angelou, once said: “As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” On the surface, this sentiment suggests the ability to balance self-care and the nurturing of important relationships in your life. But the reality is that juggling both can often be costly. In an emergency, airport personnel advise you to pull the oxygen mask over your own nose and mouth before assisting those around you. However, caregivers are frequently placed in situations where their concern for their loved one's health and safety consumes them, often at the expense of their own health. One of the most difficult aspects of caregiving is deciding how much of yourself to give up to help others — a task that can seem especially daunting for one age group, the sandwich generation.
With both the senior and baby boomer generations expected to grow exponentially, there is a clear need for new solutions to support the ever-increasing demands on caregivers. COVID-19 compelled healthcare systems worldwide to be scrutinized in novel ways, exposing inherent flaws that demonstrated a need for change. The increased adoption of healthcare technology can be seen in the heightened presence of wearables like Fitbits and health apps. As well, in the wake of COVID-19, the world has a transformed perspective on how involved individual users want to be in monitoring their well-being.
Trying to Keep Too Many Plates Spinning
The “sandwich generation” is a group of people (usually in their 30s or 40s) who are responsible for raising their own children while also caring for their aging parents. According to a 2021 study, close to one in four Americans falls into this demographic, a figure that is expected to rise exponentially as the baby boomer generation ages. These caregivers' attention is squished by competing priorities, much like the filling of a sandwich is contained by slices of bread. Trying to balance these priorities causes increased anxiety, stress, and, ultimately, guilt in sandwich generation caregivers.
The increased stress experienced by this sandwich generation is a major issue in terms of jeopardizing the quality of care, which hurts seniors and children. These caregivers struggle to find the time and emotional resources to be good spouses, parents, and children all at the same time.
The unique position of sandwich generation caregivers as actors in so many different roles frequently causes additional confusion and stress as they struggle to separate their caregiving role from their familial one.
They are prone to burnout and feelings of depression, guilt, and isolation as a result of their frustration with a lack of control in caring for their loved ones and unreasonable demands placed on their ability to provide care. Trying to keep that many plates spinning at once is a dangerous task that puts everyone involved in danger. Unfortunately, caregivers are frequently blind to the negative effects on their own mental and physical well-being, as well as the unavoidable negative effects on their loved ones.
How Can We Lighten Caregivers’ Plates?
The sheer amount of time and resources required to care for a loved one is one of the leading causes of caregiver burnout. Regular check-ins, doctor's appointments, emergency drop-bys, and the like all take up time, as does worrying about their loved ones when they're not together. Multiply this burden by two when caring for one's children and parents, and there simply aren't enough hours in the day. Caregivers should not be ashamed of their inability to manage all of these responsibilities; rather, they should look to technology to simplify, streamline, and improve their caregiving.
We cannot be everywhere at once. Remote health monitoring solutions help solve this problem by allowing caregivers to monitor their loved ones whenever and wherever it fits into their hectic schedule. Intelligence-driven insights allow caregivers to be more efficient with their time, knowing when to check in on their elderly parents to prevent a critical health event. These types of solutions help to meet the growing demand from seniors who want to age in place, which can put a strain on family caregivers who may not live nearby. Many remote health monitoring solutions will also need to provide behavioural insights, which assist caregivers in tracking their loved one's health and taking proactive measures when necessary.
Cognitive's Wi-Fi Sensing technology, WiFi Motion, can be used to provide a robust remote monitoring solution to assist caregivers. WiFi Motion is a layer of intelligence being added to WiFi that has the ability to interact with other connected devices (e.g., wearables, security systems, pill dispensers) and can be combined with other health apps to create a more comprehensive customer experience. Our sample application, Caregiver Aware, provides peace of mind and insights into well-being while respecting the privacy, dignity, and independence of the senior(s) who are aging in place. Caregivers, for example, can check whether their senior parent has been up and moving in the morning by simply looking at an app dashboard on their phone. Similarly, they can receive custom alerts about their loved ones' activity or sleeping patterns without having to drive over, call them, or rely on their loved ones’ initiative to reach out if there is a problem.
Caregivers want simple, accessible solutions that will allow them to reclaim some of their own time. They do not want to waste time configuring a complicated system that their elderly parents may not understand, misuse, or forget to charge or put on (in the case of a wearable). WiFi Motion, as evidenced by our sample Caregiver Aware app, can enable caregivers to play a less intrusive role in the lives of their loved ones, which is beneficial for caregivers who live far away from those they care for.
ISPs are Positioned to Relieve Caregiver Burnout
As mentioned above, there is a clear demand for tech solutions in the health and eldercare sectors, fueled by an ever-aging population and a growing generation that struggles to balance their own busy lives with caring for their loved ones. Therefore, wellness monitoring solutions need to be customizable, unobtrusive, and so simple to use that they can easily become an integral part of a caregiver’s life.
ISPs are well-positioned to capitalize on the growing need for health monitoring solutions, as they are already looking for new value-added services to entice and retain customers. ISPs can leverage their trusted relationships with their consumers to easily deliver new, high-value services via pre-existing channels and platforms. With WiFi Sensing-based caregiving solutions, ISPs can meet the booming demand while also positioning themselves to provide increased value with additional features as the technology continues to evolve. Wellness monitoring solutions, like Caregiver Aware, can significantly improve the health and happiness of the user. If an ISP can offer similar solutions to their subscribers, they can use the positive health benefits to boost customer satisfaction. Services utilizing WiFi Motion are essential for attracting new customers or retaining existing ones with exciting new applications.
Our sample Caregiver Aware application demonstrates how ISPs can leverage WiFi Motion to provide predictive, intelligent health monitoring, increasing customer satisfaction and laying the groundwork to roll out future services as they build a loyal and happy subscriber base. The market for cutting-edge healthcare technology is only going to grow. ISPs are uniquely positioned to offer empowering healthcare monitoring solutions that improve the quality of life for their customers, both caregivers, and patients alike.