Fighting Caregiver Burnout With Technology

Written by Anthony Emecheta

The other side of the flashy smiles and the extended hugs is the burnout that comes with caregiving. Sadly, this topic is often not discussed enough. While adults in Black communities easily embrace the idea of caring for their aging parents, they are seldom prepared to deal with the burnout that comes with caregiving.

In a previous article, I talked about 4 struggles of Black caregivers. One of the problems I mentioned was how caregiving can rob you of time spent on self-care. Thanks to the evolution of technology, Black caregivers now have a fighting chance to provide care to their aging parents without feeling trapped or burned out in the process.

According to the Pew Research Center’s 2019 report, there were over 40 million caregivers in the United States providing unpaid care to adults above 65 years. Besides helping Black caregivers to prevent burnout, embracing technology can help our communities to prevent the root causes of the problem—lack of opportunities. With technology, we can bridge the gap of racial disparities in access to opportunities and resources.

Although becoming a caregiver to aging parents is sort of an unofficial ethos in Black communities, those who would prefer to enroll their aging parents in care homes are often held back from doing so because they simply can’t afford them. A combination of high unemployment rate and underemployment ensures the status quo remains.

However, technology can assist Black people to either find new roles or pursue entrepreneurship that can help them shatter their income cap. With better earnings, I believe some Black people may reconsider being caregivers in favor of employing a trained professional—and the problem of burnout would have been solved.

Interestingly, there are several caregiving challenges that lead to burnout that can be made less burdensome with technology. The American Association of Retired Persons estimates that there are 115 million retired Americans. With people living longer, a good chunk of them will eventually need caregivers.

It is projected that by the end of the decade, these older adults will spend $84 billion on tech products. As of 2019, the population of African Americans in that lot was 4.9 million and is expected to balloon to 12 million by 2060.

Black people need to understand that investing in tech is not a luxury, rather a necessity that can make their lives a lot easier. Below are some of the tech products that can help our caregivers to fight burnout.

1. Automatic pill dispenser

Aging parents often have to take different medications at varying times of the day. Running from one place to another just to make sure that your parents took their medications at the right dosage and at the right time can be exhausting.

With an automatic pill dispenser, you can make those trips less frequent and rest easy knowing that your aging parents will not miss their medication or not take the right dosage. Some automatic pill dispensers have a combination of visual and audio cues to catch the attention of the intended user.

2. Robot companions

Humans are social animals. Isolation can lead to depression and anxiety which is why aging parents need companions. However, spending time with your parents to provide that companionship can also mean missing out on the things that matter to you.

Today, chatty robots like ElliQ are helping seniors to fight loneliness. The artificially intelligent tabletop robot has a head with light that can swivel. ElliQ can engage the user in human-like conversations, memorize their interests, and customize future interactions accordingly. Although it cannot totally eliminate human companions, it can step in for caregivers when they need to focus on their jobs or other personal interests.

3. Wearable devices

If you have aging parents with deteriorating health, you may be perpetually worried about them having an attack when you are not there. That worry can rob your focus which will eventually manifest in poor performance at the workplace. However, innovations around wearable technologies are helping to fight that anxiety.

At CES 2019, WELT displayed the first smart belt with a health tracker inside the buckle that tracks activity levels, records eating habits, measures waist size, and more. LiveFreely also developed an app that works with smartwatches and other wearables to monitor seniors’ health patterns and notify the caregiver or 911 when an emergency occurs.

Smart Sole developed a pair of shoes equipped with a GPS tracking device that can help caregivers taking care of patients with dementia to easily locate them when they wander off and can’t find their way home.

4. Cameras

While you cannot be with your aging parents at all times, cameras (even low-end baby monitors) allow you to monitor them and multitask if you are working daytime. Some of those cameras have audio capabilities that allows you to communicate with them and make it feel like you are present.

In some parts of the world (particularly developing countries), Black communities are yet to tap into the world of opportunities provided by technology. Embracing this flurry of tech products (even the basic piece of technology) can reduce—if not eliminate—caregiver burnout and make life easier for you and your family.

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About the author

Anthony Emecheta

Anthony Emecheta holds a master’s degree in microbiology. He is a passionate educator and particularly an advocate of racial equality. He strongly believes the world will be a better place if we all see ourselves as humans first before anything else.

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