“We’ve not yet found the killer app for caregiving, other than paid in-home care”

By Pam McDonald

According to the latest survey by Caring.com, a Senior Housing Forum Partner, volunteer family caregivers rely on people and online information, not senior care devices, to assist them – and many use nothing at all. “We’ve not yet found the killer app for caregiving, other than paid in-home care,” said Andy Cohen, CEO of Caring.com.

With over 3 million unique visitors each month, Caring.com is a leading resource for family caregivers seeking information and support as they provide voluntary care for aging parents, spouses, and other elder loved ones.  

Low Adoption Rates

No in-home technology scored higher than 14% utilization among caregiving families. Most high-tech caregiver tools were used by even fewer. Yet 30% of families pay professionals, such as home care agencies, to care for their loved ones in their homes, often to supplement care provided by a family member.

These and other survey findings were presented by Katie Roper, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Caring.com, and Steve Moran, Senior Housing Forum Publisher, in their session titled “Mapping the Caregiver Journey” at the Aging 2.0 Expo just held in San Francisco November 19th and 20th. Top-line results from the survey, including demographics, financial impacts, and housing choices, can be seen at: https://www.caring.com/research/senior-care-in-2015.

Heavy Toll On Family Members

Caregiving takes a heavy toll on families, according to Caring.com’s recent survey, including health challenges for caregivers (such as trouble sleeping and high blood pressure), negative impacts on their work performance (including absenteeism and on-the-job distractions), and tens of thousands of dollars of annual financial outlay.

Yet few report taking advantage of current caregiving technologies:

  • Personal Emergency Response Systems are being used by only 14% of families – although 29% of the seniors living independently in their own homes reported using these systems;
  • Medication management technology is being used by 9% of families;
  • Internet-based care coordination sites are used by 4% of families;
  • Tele-health remote monitoring technologies are only being used by 1% of families.

Low Tech

Even low-tech and inexpensive home modifications, such as raised toilet seats or grab bars in the shower, are available to fewer than half of seniors living at home.

How do families report they are coping? Many are bringing in paid help including

  • 48% of those whose loved ones live on their own; and
  • 27% of those whose loved ones live with them. 

This care can be expensive. Half of all caregivers spent more than $5,000 per year assisting their loved ones, and 9% spent more than $50,000 on caregiving-related expenses. As many as 30% feel trapped by financial constraints in less-than-optimal care situations.

Surprisingly, lower-cost caregiving coping strategies were used infrequently, such as:

  • Government-provided assistance programs, which only 10% of families reported using;
  • Adult daycare services, which are used by 9% of families; and
  • Volunteer companionship or meal delivery programs, which are used by 6% of families.

Caring.com surveyed 2,098 U.S. adults online from July 8 – August 10, 2015, asking about their caregiving experience, and the tools and services they used to help them. All survey-takers had searched online for senior care assistance, although exact search terms varied.

Over 50% of respondents reported living together with their loved one in need of care, and just under 10% were helping loved ones living independently in their own homes. The balance had loved ones in a senior community (20%) or were caring for themselves (18%).

In a final survey question, Caring.com asked an open-ended question about what additional help caregiving families needed. Many answers requested better information about local caregiving options, respite care solutions in emergencies (or when they just need a break), and emotional support and encouragement on their caregiver journey. 

“No one asked for more technology,” Cohen pointed out.

Those looking for caregiving resources can access it through Caring.com’s referral line at (800) 325-8591 or connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and/or YouTube.