Last year, a Forbes tech blog proposed that the senior care market may become the next billion dollar technology opportunity, with at-home elder care services the largest segment of a market expected to reach $319 billion in the United States by 2016. Many of these technologies, such as advanced home monitoring systems or body sensors to measure vital statistics, have the potential to benefit seniors and their caregivers and may help reduce costs and hospitalizations..
While these technological advances may help seniors stay in their homes longer or, perhaps, reduce the amount of hands-on caregiving that is needed, other technological tools under the banner of making senior care easier should really give anyone who is interested in care at home some pause for concern. Afterall, senior care is not one size fits all care.
We are already well into the Senior-Care-To-Go market via online tools and smartphone apps to book yourself or your loved one a caregiver. For those of us who have clients, patients or with loved ones who need care, we really should all slow down before jumping on this latest technology bandwagon. Care.com, an online selection, matching and scheduling tool which initially began as a way for parents to find babysitters for their children, also offers senior care (and pets). It’s a one-stop shop, but seniors have vastly different needs than children or the family pooch. There are so many variables that need consideration, and the greatest of these is a diminished mental capacity that sometimes occurs with age. Although not everyone who ages has issues with cognition, for those who do, getting a caregiver in the home is more than just a placement. There are safety concerns, not only for the elder person him or herself, but for the assets and “stuff” that has accumulated over a lifetime.
While Care.com’s website does offer a senior safety checklist you can pass onto the caregiver you hire, there’s no guarantee that caregiver will read it. Many home care agencies carefully vet, certify, and train their caregivers to provide seniors and their families with the best care. You can do background checks with Care.com, but how sure can you be of the training needed? How can you know what kind of care is needed? An absence of past malice shouldn’t be the only criteria used for determining the quality of care. Many home care agencies do the additional legwork required to ensure quality care is given. Care.com bought Breedlove services so they can now offer assistance with the complicated process of paying, withholding, etc of taxes and legal obligations of an employer. Home care agencies, however, for the most part also take care of that to reduce the risk of a family member getting stuck with unexpected payments that are legally mandated for employers, but that are usually not associated with the underground economy of caregivers.
CareLinx.com is another online start up that, as its own website states, “is disrupting the +$100 Billion in-home come care service delivery market” through connecting families and caregivers directly online. Home Hero provides similar services in California, with plans of expanding nationwide, offering video screening of potential candidates for in-home caregiving. Home Hero touts it’s the “fastest” way to find in-home caregivers for seniors. Sounds great, in theory. But caring for seniors shouldn’t be just price tags where the lowest price wins. Those of us with decades in the home care trenches know, it often takes time and a gentle hand, and face-to-face interaction between your loved one and potential caregivers to determine the right fit. And, it is not only the right fit, but backups for emergencies, training for care that is specific to the need, and assistance with activities in the home that are meaningful to the senior who needs the care.
While these new models may make securing your own caregiver more affordable and efficient, many of these models lack the adequate controls that are inherent with the traditional home agency model in keeping the frail elderly safe. In the end, if you can’t address the safety and security of your elderly loved one, you haven’t gained much in affordability and efficiency.
Elder care is not a one-size-fits-all solution. (Did I say that already?) Depending on financial ability to pay for services, support systems in place (family caregivers or others—neighbors, best friends, etc.), disease state, mental state, and location and access to services, the caregiving solution is different for most. Caregiving shouldn’t just be about scheduling ease, like booking a reservation at your favorite restaurant. Great caregiving should be about a comprehensive plan and backup plans to ensure the health and wellbeing of our often vulnerable loved ones.
So, finding a “match” online might work for some, but only if there is:
1. Supervision and monitoring of the situation for abuse–financial, emotional, and physical;
2. Oversight for daily expenditures and reconciliation of goods purchased versus goods consumed; and
3. Someone to fill in should the matched caregiver have an emergency and not be available or not show up at all
corecubed works with home care agencies to promote their valuable services that not just anyone can do. We also have a wealth of knowledge on operations and care provision, and assist our home care marketing clients provide a truly quality service.
If you have a home care company or know someone who does, let us know how we can help in this changing marketplace. Senior care shouldn’t be about dialing for dollars or the quickest way to book a caregiver. It should be about the human touch.