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It’s Time We Get Smart About Senior Care

The senior care industry is currently experiencing an accelerated transformation spurred by the events of the past two years. Considering where we’re presently at, it’s clear that seniors’ expectations haven’t just adapted, they’ve exceeded beyond the current climate, chiefly in areas like technology.

Last year, skilled nursing facilities and long-term care centers complied with social distancing guidelines and lockdowns in an effort to keep their residents safe. While effective, these measures demonstrated that basic technology can no longer support the quality of care these facilities must provide and, in the same vein, fail to keep residents satisfied. As such, it’s changed what residents look for in SNFs and other long-term care centers. And for good reason.

What seniors want from transformative tech

Despite society’s perception of Baby Boomers, research has shown these seniors have evolved into a very tech-savvy generation. Four in five seniors rely on technology to maintain a connection with family and friends. Around 80 percent use their tech devices to access critical medical information. And a lot of them shop, entertain themselves, and do research online as well.

While they aren’t necessarily as adept or entrenched in technology as younger generations, their knowledge and experience with technology has resulted in higher expectations, which the senior living industry must now meet. Elderly patients no longer see tech solutions as a commodity, it’s now an essential part of their lifestyle and care.

This means skilled nursing facilities and long-term care centers must implement technology that makes their residents’ lives easier. Devices like voice-activated remotes that allow residents to control their TVs to facility-wide video monitoring systems that let them know how crowded certain areas are bring increased convenience that could make all the difference in their stay.

Facilities must get smart

When used in addition to other technological amenities, smart technology can increase control, accessibility, and personalization, among other benefits. If you aren’t already increasing your technology budgets, you’re falling behind the rest of the industry. 80 percent of senior living facilities have reported ramping up their spending and adoption efforts for the foreseeable future.

Yet, investing in more technology is futile without an understanding of how its implementation will be valuable to your patients, staff, and organization. Consider this criteria: Is it simple? Helpful? Does it provide immediate results? Is it interconnected with everything else in your facility? If your smart technology checks all these boxes, it’s a good fit.

Smart thermostats are a great example of this. They may seem like a trivial accommodation, but it simplifies the process of controlling the temperature, offers immediate convenience for every single resident, and produces a fluid experience throughout the entire facility. There are a multitude of other smart technologies that are enhancing senior care as well.

Bed sensors embedded into residents’ mattresses can monitor heart rates, detect motions, and track respiration rates, and can immediately notify healthcare staff of anything wrong. Digital medication dispensers are another great commodity. While nurses typically oversee medications, these smart devices can help seniors take control over their regimens by dispensing their pills at the appropriate time and alerting them if they forget to take it. These digital dispensers, which can hold a 90-day supply of 15 different medications, also alert residents and staff when it’s time to reup their pills for continued use.

These are just a few examples of how smart technology is transforming resident care at SNFs and long-term care centers. Perhaps some of these devices will work at your facility, and perhaps they won’t. Just because smart tech offers added convenience doesn’t mean it will be a one-size-fits-all for every center. What will work for your organization will depend on the unique needs of your residents, as well as the types of services you offer and the layout of your facility.

Act now, or risk falling behind

These past two years have emphasized the importance of technology more than ever before. As more seniors embrace the benefits of technology, SNFs and long-term care centers have a responsibility to their residents to implement life-changing and life-saving smart tech that’s revolutionizing senior care.

It’s time facilities re-evaluate their current offerings and modernize their offerings to meet this new, amplified need for better tech solutions. How your center adapts to this new climate will establish your commitment to the future of senior care, and will either differentiate you from other centers or undermine your success in the industry.

Technology and healthcare are a package deal. Are you on board?

Photo: Mario Arango, Getty Images

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