Caring for a sick or elderly loved one means that a caregiver must juggle a wide variety of tasks — from managing medications, meals and health care appointments to making legal and financial decisions — all while balancing their own busy lives.
Can technology improve the quality of life for those receiving and providing care? To find out, the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology and the USC Family Caregiver Support Center (FCSC) has partnered with Care3, a developer of mobile health technology, to provide care planning and secure electronic support resources to all of the organization’s clients and their families.
Through a mobile app that complies with HIPAA medical privacy regulations, FCSC clients who create a list of care activities with guidance from the center’s staff will be able to access their loved one’s care plan, receive reminders, check off completed care tasks and send text messages to FCSC staff. The staff can also access the information to get instant, active feedback on the care plan and determine if the caregiver needs help with any issues.
In addition, the app will offer caregivers self-care reminders and tips, including instructions for relaxation exercises. Family caregivers often develop illnesses while caring for loved ones; the support center hopes to address caregivers’ stress, burnout and other health issues with the Care3 software.
“We can use Care3 to empower our caregiver clients to not only take care of their loved ones, but take better care of themselves as well,” said USC Davis School Research Associate Professor Donna Benton, director of the USC Family Caregiver Support Center.
We’re getting older
Due in part to the rapid aging of the U.S. population, there are now approximately 43.5 million people acting as unpaid caregivers across the country, each spending an average of 24.4 hours per week providing care to family members and friends, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. For caregivers in the Los Angeles area, the FCSC provides support for many aspects of caregiving, including connecting families with health care and other services and helping caregivers manage their own well-being.
The FCSC, which is the first organization to use such software with unpaid family caregivers, will begin using the app in early 2017. Benton added that if the pilot program for electronic care plans is successful, the FCSC would like to test the app’s usage in other areas and build an evidence-based program for helping caregivers and their loved ones with the technology.
This will hopefully make caregivers’ lives less stressful.
“This can be a tighter way of measuring what’s going on at home, without caregivers needing to travel to us,” she said. “This will hopefully make caregivers’ lives less stressful and will help them better adhere to their loved one’s care plans.”
Founded by three former Aetna executives with entrepreneurial backgrounds in consumer and enterprise health technology, Care3 combines patient and family engagement with post-acute care coordination on the same platform to improve outcomes and reduce costly hospital readmissions. The software was first designed for use by home health agency workers before its adaptation for family caregivers.
“We are honored to be chosen by USC and the Family Caregiver Support Center,” said David Williams, Care3 co-founder and CEO. “Families receiving services from the FCSC are typically underserved and have low access to health care in their communities. Care3 can help bridge that care gap and coordinate care between family and providers.”