Technologies to Reduce Care Costs and Allow Safe Aging at Home

Introduction

Can using home care technology help your family save money caring for an aging loved one? The answer is most certainly "Yes," but there are many other related questions. For example, What technologies to use? How much can be saved? Is saving money the only consideration? Perhaps the most difficult question is: Where to start? This guide is intended to help families identify what technologies and tools they might use, to understand their pros and cons, and to calculate the cost savings they can generate over using other types of aging care.

A huge diversity of products is marketed as "aging in place technology". Our goal in this guide is not to provide a comprehensive list, but rather to make sense of those that are available on the market today in 2016 and can reduce the care hours required by elderly persons. As such, they can reduce a family's out-of-pocket care costs or reduce the hours they spend providing care themselves.

 Computer Skills Not Required - A common concern among families is that they or their aging loved one do not have the computer experience necessary to use aging in place technology. This concern is unfounded. These systems have been specifically designed for easy set up and low maintenance and rarely does a user need to push more than a single button to operate them.


Types of Aging in Place / Home Care Technology

Aging in place technologies can be divided into 3 major categories.  To be clear, there are many products labeled as "aging in place technology" which fall outside these 3 categories however these simply do not provide significant, if any, cost-savings to families and therefore are not addressed in this guide. 

There is also a wide range of tools, technologies and services within each of the 3 categories.  These differences are addressed on the specific product pages found at the links in the table below.

Technology What it does How it works
Personal Safety Monitors individual's current status and wellbeing regardless of location, notifies the appropriate parties and responds to crisis A network of unobtrusive, wearable and in-home sensors send real-time information to remote monitoring service
Companionship Monitors and improves mood, and decreases loneliness by remotely providing interaction and companionship Simplified tablet computers enable video conversations, photo-sharing and other interactions
Medication Management Dispenses appropriate medications and doses, reminds seniors and alerts caregivers Devices are filled and programmed by caregiver.  Seniors, upon receiving a reminder, simply push a button to receive their correct medications

Did You Know?  There are many transportation services available to help seniors who live at home that can no longer drive.  Learn more.

 

For Whom are They Appropriate?

Personal Safety Monitoring - The range of activities that can be monitored is so great that almost any frail senior who spends time alone can benefit from safety monitoring or related services.  Their family members benefit as well from the reduced stress of knowing their loved one is safe.  Details about how these work, pricing and financial assistance is available here.

Companionship - Online companions are intended for individuals who spend significant time alone.  They are appropriate for persons of sound mind and for those in the early and middle stages of dementia or Alzheimer's.  While no computer skills are required, vision and vocal ability are necessary to benefit from these services.  Details about how these work, pricing and financial assistance is available here.

Medication Management - Appropriate for seniors who take multiple medications on an ongoing basis and are challenged to remember which pills to take and when.  These technologies are not appropriate for individuals who medications are provided intravenously or through nebulizers. Details about how these work, pricing and financial assistance is available here.

These technologies can be used as standalone services or they can be combined.  This is especially true when one uses technology for personal safety monitoring and medication management, as their need for expensive home care aides is greatly reduced.  With that reduction in home care visits, comes an increased need for companionship and therefore companionship technology.

 

 

Determine Cost Savings of Home Care Technology

To determine the cost savings home care technologies can provide over using human provided care, one must make a comparison to how many hours of care an individual would otherwise require.  A home care worker or assisted living residence provide companionship, medication management and monitor the individual's personal safety. Therefore, a comparison should consider the cost of all three technology services. 

 

These are ballpark estimates; there are other factors which impact cost savings. Click on the following links for a more detailed cost savings analysis for personal safety monitoring, companion care or medication management.

 

Cost Comparison: Full Time Home Care vs. Home Care Technology
Technology Services (includes equipment costs)
Personal Safety Monitoring
Companion Care
Medication Management
Monthly Sub-Total
Monthly Cost
$125
$200
$75
$400
Home Care (40 hours / week) $3,192
Cost Savings / Month    $2,792

 

 

Cost Comparison: Assisted Living vs. Home Care Technology
Technology Services (includes equipment costs)
Personal Safety Monitoring
Companion Care
Medication Management
Monthly Sub-Total
Monthly Cost
$125
$200
$75
$400
Assisted Living (does not include room and board fees) $2,500
Cost Savings / Month    $2,100

 

Payment Options and Financial Assistance

There are financial assistance programs available to help cover the cost of aging in place technology and services.  Unfortunately Medicare, the most common insurance held by the elderly, does not cover the cost of personal safety monitoring, medication management or companion care services.  However, Medicaid Home and Community Based Service (HCBS) Waivers offer assistance in almost every state.  There are also assistance options specifically for veterans and several states offer help in their non-Medicaid programs for the elderly.  Detailed information about financial assistance is available on the product pages for personal safety monitoring, medication management and companion care services.