Caregivers for those with neurocognitive disorders (Alzheimer’s disease, dementias and other related progressive diseases) have unique, long-term stressors that lead to increased risk for distress, depression, and negative health outcomes. Conventional approaches through support groups and community based programs are helpful but not adequate, especially for those living in rural areas at a distance from care. This study of 74 women caregivers with mild to moderate depression tested two approaches: a 14-week behavioral intervention using video instructional materials (DVD/VHS), in-person telephone coaching in behavioral management and reinforcing workbook materials, with pleasant events scheduling and relaxation, versus a basic education guide and limited telephone support. The first approach was a statistical improvement over the second, easing caregiver depression and helping in their managing patient behavior. Results were maintained six months after the program ended. “Distance-based interventions (e.g., telephone, video, Internet, and bibliotherapy) hold promise for family carers, especially those living in rural or metropolitan areas with limited transportation.” Now if we could add in some tablet based interactive support? A telehealth behavioral coaching intervention for neurocognitive disorder family carers (International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry) Hat tip to Mike Clark via Twitter
Is the best design for older people and the disabled not specifically designed for them, but an adaptation of basic good design? Laurie Orlov in one of her apt Aging In Place Technology Watch articles questions the market viability of all those specially designed products we’ve seen since, say 2008. We recall ‘smart homes’, senior desktop computers, simplified phones and the robot caregivers which never seem to get past the prototype stage [TTA 25 July 14]. Her POV is that in most cases ‘designing for all ages is feasible today’ except for healthcare–durable medical equipment (DME) and healthcare delivery (and,this Editor would add, monitoring). One of her commenters points out that not everything can be designed ‘universally’, linking to this excellent article from Smashing on guidelines for designing tech to be used by those over 50. The section on blue color perception was especially interesting, as blue is healthcare’s #1 color. I would also point out that design which avoids stigma (as in ‘it screams OLD’) and has good aesthetics also wins.
Is AARP admitting that ‘tech designed for seniors’ is not a winning notion, as this May’s Life@50+ National Event in Miami is likely the last national event they sponsor? And it would be interesting to go back to the previous ‘Live Pitches’ to see how they are doing. Ms Orlov profiles this year’s five.
I can, and do, write prescriptions for her many medical problems, but I have little to offer for the two conditions that dominate her days: loneliness and disability. She has a well-meaning, troubled daughter in a faraway state, a caregiver who comes twice a week, a friend who checks in on her periodically, and she gets regular calls from volunteers with the Friendship Line.
It’s not enough. Like most older adults, she doesn’t want to be “locked up in one of those homes.” What she needs is someone who is always there, who can help with everyday tasks, who will listen and smile.
What she needs is a robot caregiver.
—Louise Aronson, MD
From a medical practitioner and geriatrician is a view on robots as not dehumanizing, but a source of companionship, comfort and ‘always on’ emergency assistance for older adults and the disabled, particularly those who live alone. Dr Aronson also advocates assistance robots for everyday tasks such as bed transfer, lifting and dressing assistance. Mentioned favorably: PARO the Japanese ‘seal’ robot, MOBISERV Kompaï, Sweden’s GiraffPlus but notable by omission GrandCare Systems, the GeriJoy tablet-as-pet companion and (perhaps too new) the JIBO ‘family robot companion’ [TTA 18 July]. She also makes the apt point that those of us who’ve spent most of our adult lives interacting with machines will be quite comfortable with robotic companions. The Future of Robot Caregivers (New York Times) Also Katy Fike PhD from the Aging 2.0 group takes a look in their blog at Dr Aronson’s insights as well as JIBO.