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Caregiver shortages are on the rise as more than 10,000 Americans turn 65 each day, and families of older adults who are more vulnerable to Covid-19 are rethinking nursing homes as an option for their loved ones. Meanwhile, employers are outlining return to work policies, forcing a portion of the 53 million people who are caregivers to find in-home support for their family members. We must embrace technology to fill the gap — bringing peace of mind to everyone in the circle of care and enabling older adults to retain their independence.
The ongoing professional caregiver drought has shifted responsibility to personal caregivers, who spend an average of 24 hours a week providing care, all unpaid. This added responsibility costs companies up to $37 billion annually, due to lost productivity, absenteeism and retention issues. Employers have increasingly begun to recognize the strain on their employees, especially in the last year, and have added tech solutions like wearables and fall detection systems as an employee benefit to lighten the burden.
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Beyond the costs to employers, acting as a caregiver to an aging family member can take a toll emotionally, mentally and physically. Caregivers are responsible not only for the health of their loved ones and all of the associated tasks, but they also often pick up duties like cooking, cleaning or helping to run errands. As someone who is part of the “sandwich generation” — simultaneously caring for my young children and elderly parents — I’ve experienced this firsthand, and it can feel like a full-time job before you’ve even started your actual workday. That experience was formative to the founding of my company Aloe Care Health.
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Living life remotely during the pandemic has put an urgent spotlight on the importance of innovative technology to support caregivers and older adults, and funders are starting to take notice. Investors at Rock Health reported that funding for digital solutions focused on aging in place quadrupled from 2019 to 2020. Further, the myth that older adults aren’t interested in technology has been dispelled. AARP reports that people 50 years old and older use smartphones, wearable technology and smart home technology at the same pace as younger adults.
With 90% of people aged 65 and over preferring to stay in their own homes as they get older, the case for technical assistance is clear. For caregivers, it means alleviating some of the tolls of caregiving, and for those receiving care, technology helps maintain a sense of freedom. Employers, take note: The caregiving industry will only continue to grow as more adults age and need assistance. You have a critical role to play in supporting your caregiver employees’ needs. It’s time to start considering caregiver technology as a viable benefit in the workplace. Not only will it save money and increase productivity, but it’s also just the right thing to do.
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