Communication transparency in Assisted Living and Home Care
Recently, my friend Laurie Orlov — who likely knows more about technology for older Americans than anyone in the world — sent me an email asking if I would be interested in republishing this article. After reading it, I decided I would republish it, but I think she is missing some important realities. Something I will address in a separate article soon.
By Laurie Orlov
Eyes, ears and status matter nearly as much as care for families of seniors. Imagine having to hire a private duty care worker to visit your family member in senior housing, notice today’s status and provide an email about what’s going on for long-distance family. Seem silly? Yet there has long been a ‘tree falls in the forest’ communication problem for families of memory-challenged residents, whether in home care or senior living. Yet providing simple status of loved ones (did she eat, did he go for a walk, how is the skin rash) is so simple. For many of the circumstances in which assisted living or home care services are engaged, the care recipient cannot clearly communicate the activities of the day, let alone if a rash is healing. So are family expectations forcing a change in the way care status is communicated? No data exists. And that communication is not an attribute in care search sites like Caring.com.
Communication is a must for all paid services – but in senior care, it is rarely provided. Let’s say you hire a carpenter to build a room for you while you are on a business trip. Can you imagine them NOT wanting you to know progress when they quit for the day? Nothing in HIPAA prevents email communications — certainly about health status changes, assuming patient or patient representative wants to receive them. So you would think that home care agencies and senior living communities would prominently feature their capabilities for communicating with family members. I could find no indication on Sunrise or Home Instead websites, searching for a clue about what/how communication with families will be provided. Clearly neither see this as a promotable feature that would make them more appealing in our tech-connected times.
Who does market their tech connection for/with families? Wouldn’t it be great if the ALFA/ARGENTUM search site identified what degree of tech connection with families was offered – or on amenity to search for before someone presents themselves as a lead to be qualified on A Place for Mom? And family communication is not an attribute in care search sites like Caring.com. Is communication with families considered to be an important enough future change that the topic was discussed at a national event? One session at LeadingAge perhaps. Brookdale’s site indicates that ‘Personal Notes are periodically sent to a family member.’ For new entrants, it’s different. Now consider the app that shows Louise’s day on the Hometeam website or the Honor’s family app, or the grandPad/ComfortKeepers companion app.
Some industries race to keep up with technology change. What if everything else you did required a phone call? Imagine a car rental company without a website for reserving a car? Or even a large urban restaurant that couldn’t handle an online reservation? Imagine if order status on Amazon, or your bank balance was only available with a phone call – or visit to the bank. You expect self-service information access and communication and you get it. Considering the price paid by consumers for care, someday soon maybe email updates will be a must for home care – and some years after that, maybe it will be available in most senior housing offerings — if you request it.