Today, nearly forty million Americans are providing unpaid care of aging, disabled or other people who need assistance. One fourth of these are millennials; half were under the age of 50. These caregivers lose income, take time off without pay, their workplaces suffer through absenteeism and caregivers are stressed by the extra burden and out of pocket expenses incurred.
And the numbers point to a more desperate situation. By 2020, 117 million Americans are expected to need assistance of some kind. Yet the overall number of unpaid caregivers is only expected to reach 45 million. That means there will be almost four times as many people needing care but far from enough individuals to offer that care.
The time bomb for getting smart about aging care is ticking. According to an AARP study, the caregiving market is expected to reach $72 billion by 2020, with $62 billion of that coming from caregiver’s out of pocket spending. One of the best ways to prepare and manage this seismic shift in demographics is to use technology, says AARP’s CIO, Terry Bradwell. Tech innovation and new business models are needed to disrupt this marketplace and deliver more relevant products and solutions.
The Year of the Caregiver
AARP’s “Caregiving Innovation Frontiers” research project identifies some of the major ways that technology can help caregivers get a grip on many of the chores that exhaust them. It also shines a light on fostering entrepreneurship and technology, the caregiver’s dilemma.
A few examples? There are multiple services like Blue Apron, Netgrocer and Munchery that already exist to help with home delivery of meals. Task Rabbit, provides services like home repair, delivery, cleaning and lifting heavy objects. Uber, Via and Lyft are three examples of services that transport the elderly under the watchful eye of your mobile app.
On the medical front, there are many services designed to help manage care. MyFitnessPal, AliveCor, Withings and CellScope are just a few that can be used via Bluetooth to monitor vital signs. Simple pill reminder apps (Mango Health and PillJogger) remind loved ones to take medication.
New telepresence doctor visits from companies like Heal, Doctor On Demand, MDLive and Bright.md deliver house calls via your mobile phone or computer, eliminating the need for the elderly to travel to a doctor. eCaring and CareZone both help caregivers with the complexities of coordinating care management.
Home retrofitting, creating an appropriate environment for the elderly, is a woefully underdeveloped business area ripe for disruptions. Today, there are over 65,000 home remodelers in the US but only 5,000 are certified for the aging in place retrofitting.
Finally, digital inclusion and social well-being figure heavily into AARP’s report. Research shows that the elderly has better health outcomes when they are active, engaged and connected. Photo and video sharing, communications tools like Skype and Facebook, mood sensing and social enrichment tools like Breezie, VolunteerMark and GiveGab figure heavily into this equation.
With all these services what’s the holdup in their adoption?
A recent study out of Georgetown University found that while 67% of caregivers believe that technology can help, only 10% are actually using these solutions. Time, according to the study is the biggest impediment. This sandwich generation caught between caregiving for kids and parents, while working, leaves them little spare time to investigate and adopt new technologies.
Money, of course is another obstacle. Most of the services that could help the caregiver are not covered through any insurance plan, offer no tax incentives and are predominantly paid out of pocket. Things can get costly.
Technology can help solve some of the problems but only if we make it easy for caregivers to learn about and have access to these services at an affordable price.