Practically speaking, phone and computer apps don’t come close to solving every caregiver challenge. Where is the app that makes all of your siblings willing and able to provide care for your frail dad? Or how about the app that cleans up the bathroom after you assist your spouse, who has dementia, take his shower? No, the burden of these and many other activities remains with the caregiver. Nonetheless, computer and mobile device applications excel in areas such as sorting, organizing, recording, locating, informing, matching, coaching, calming and reminding. These digital tools are evolving to provide solid service in ever dependable and useful ways.
Types of Caregiver Applications (Apps) and Websites
- Coordinating Care:
Need a place where family, friends and neighbors can go to find out how they can help you with caregiving? Post information for people to stay updated about life and care issues? Offer a calendar where members of your group sign up to provide transportation to doctor appointments or come by for a visit and more?
- Managing Appointments and Tasks:
These applications allow multiple people to maintain a single calendar color-coded by user, assign and coordinate tasks, establish a list of what needs to be done and notes for the status of a given project or event.
- Examples: Google Calendar or search for “Shared Calendar” in the Apple App store or Google Play store.
- Medical Apps & Medication Management:
In the past few years, many doctor’s offices have changed to online communications. In their portal you can schedule appointments and send messages which often are answer quickly. Other trusted medical apps can provide information on medications and conditions. When faced with multiple prescriptions and over-the-counter medications, remembering when to take what pill when and with what can be confusing at best. These applications often include pill identification tools such as Davis’s Drug Gude for Nurses, medication scheduling trackers and reminder alarms all personalized to fit your requirements.
- Social and Emotional Support:
- Caregivers all too often feel alone and isolated. Forty percent to 70 percent of family caregivers have high-risk symptoms for depression. Of these caregivers, one quarter to one-half meet the diagnostic criteria for major depression (Zarit). Communities of caregivers are available online and by mobile phone 24 hours a day to listen and to provide much needed encouragement.
- Examples: PTSD Coach, Alzheimer’s Connected
- Self-care, Meditation and Spirituality:
- Sometimes, a physical respite from caregiving isn’t always possible. You may find yourself with a mere 10-15 minutes to yourself on a particularly stressful day of caregiving not long enough for a hot bath, perhaps, but enough time to calm your mind with an audio-based app playing nature sounds, soothing music or a repetition of mantras or chants. Whatever works to calm your mind can certainly work on calming your body. One popular place to listen to music and sounds online is Pandora (both a website, www.pandora.com, and an app), an online radio site that allows users to type in an artist, genre, or composer to build their own personalized radio station.
- Examples: Calm, Headspace, Insight Timer, Meditation Oasis, at www.Pandora.com, try “Nature Sounds Radio.”, search “Meditation” on the Apple App Store or the Google Play store.
- Information & Education:
- Caregiver information classes are now being offered by webinar. Webinars are seminars where you can listen to a live presenter by phone or through the speakers on your computer while watching their visual presentation on a computer screen. Typically, these sessions offer time during or after the presentation for you to ask questions and make comments just as you might during an in-person class.
- Examples: Look for announcements about upcoming webinars on trusted websites such as the Family Caregiver Alliance website, the Alzheimer’s Association website, and this website’s calendar.
- What if you could set up two mobile devices that communicated with each other? One might be on your smart phone and the other installed safely on your loved one?in their shoe or on the back of their belt to help locate them should they become lost due to severe memory loss. This is now possible with GPS devices that can be programmed and personalized for your situation. For long-distance caregiving, programmable webcams and video conferencing might offer you and your loved one reassurance and peace of mind, just being able to see each other, or provide early warning if something doesn’t look right.
- Examples: Family Locator – Find my Family and Friends (iOS) (also available for Android), Life360, Skype, Google Hangouts.
- Exercise & Nutrition:
- Mobile applications are making it easier for you to have a few more minutes to take care of you. Staying in touch by mobile phone allows you to go for a walk while your neighbor sits with your husband who has dementia. With an application that provides a selection of simple healthy meals, suggestions each morning help you decide what to make for dinner. You can also order your groceries online if you can’t make it to the grocery store for a few days.
- Examples: My Fitness Pal, Pedometer apps, AllRecipe.com.
- Shopping for Food, Goods, and Services:
- If caregiving responsibilities keep you close to home much of the time, secure websites allow you to do your errands and shop for needed items online any time, day or night. Now more and more people are taking care of banking, bill-paying, clothes and appliance shopping, refilling prescriptions, movie and book purchases, and much more online.
- Examples: Instacart, Mom’s Meals, Blue Apron, all major banks and credit unions; Amazon.com; Overstock.com, Zappos.com
- Entertainment & Brain Games:
- Caregivers who experience chronic stress may be at greater risk for cognitive decline including loss in short-term memory, attention and verbal IQ. (Vitaliano) Finding time for entertainment, playing e-Scrabble with your niece across country or trying some of the free games available online can both engage your brain and add some enjoyment to your life.
- Examples: Lumosity, Sodokku.com, Words With Friends2, AARP Free Brain Games, ScrabbleGames
Not all apps work on all devices; they are dependent on the device and service plan. Once you buy a device, whether mobile, tablet, laptop, or desktop, you are limited to the mobile operating system (OS) or “platform” that runs on that device. The major systems currently available are Apple and Android. When reviewing the types of applications and websites below, remember to search on the manufacturer’s website for compatibility with your device and platform (or on the platform-specific store, such as the Apple App store for Apple devices, and Google Play for Android devices).
Source: By Family Caregiver Alliance and reviewed by Marie Jobling, and The Senior Source, Dallas, TX.
We hope this information is helpful to you in the important work you do as a family caregiver.
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