Telecare for Older Adults: Friend or Foe?

What is Telecare?

Every day we are inundated with technology. We have iPods, Blackberries and tablets. We use our computers to Skype with friends and family around the world. We use the Internet to learn  about recent health discoveries, manage appointments, get directions, and locate restaurants in the area.  Imagine if we took that same concept and applied it to home health care and monitoring our health. This is exactly what telecare can do for older adults with care assistance needs. Telecare can ensure that the smoke alarm is activated appropriately, and the person gets out of his or her house in time. It can make sure the thermostat is at the right level, it marks the time of day the person gets out of bed and much more. It does all of this with sensors which are stationed around the house.  The system sends all of the information it gathers to the telecaregiver through the Internet. The telecaregiver knows when the family member or client needs help.

 Pros and Cons To Telecare

Arguably the best thing about telecare is that it is always available even if a physical caregiver can’t be there. Home Helpers of Philadelphia have review the benefits of home emergency monitoring for seniors. There is also discussion online that those who can live on their own with some additional help would benefit from in home monitoring. One pro, important to many families, is that moving an older adult into a nursing home or assisted living takes a lot of planning, is costly and older adults are often most comfortable in their own homes. While it may be helpful to the family and the older adult to ensure that there are not problems in the home, there could be some problems with relying solely on a monitoring system. For example, what if there were an error with the sensor system and the telecargiver was not notified when there was a problem. Of course, this can pose a major problem. And most importantly, what if the older adult is not comfortable having someone or something “watch” their every move?

 The Caregiver’s Perspective

The American Association of Retired Persons Healthy@Home performed a survey in March, 2008 of 907 seniors (age 65+) and 1023 caregivers which gives insight into how comfortable older adults feel with some type of home monitoring as well as how knowledgeable caregivers are about home monitoring. ( In this survey,
  • 62% of caregivers were willing to use a home monitoring system
  • 19% of the caregivers knew of any specific programs
  • 89% of seniors felt that remaining at home is key
  • 53% were not sure if they could do it safely

 An Older Adult’s Point of View

Imagine that you are an older adult who lives alone. Your children live far away. They check in on you when they can, but they have their own lives.  You have neighbors, but they are busy and might not always be around in case of an emergency.  Your hearing, vision, and balance are not what they used to be. Your children have expressed concern that you are still living alone. One solution your children propose is to bring technology that monitors your activity in your home. Your children explain that one of the newest pieces of technology that older adults can have in their home is a telecare system. It allows people to have freedom and remain in their home despite any limitations, but also to maintain their dignity. It only uses two things: A web cam and the Internet. You do not want people to see your every move, including when you wake up, when you leave the house or when you take your medicine. However as you consider the other option the family proposed to you, moving from the family home to an assisted living facility, the option to stay in your home is more appealing.
 What are your thoughts on telecare? Are you for or against  telecare and why?
  ***Thanks to dgittler for sharing the picture used in this post. Also big thanks to the editor of this post Emily Mysel, Communication’s Director of the Chicago Bridge.      


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