Family Caregivers: Biggest Barrier to Home Care Tech?

Family caregivers can be barriers to technology adoption and usage by older adults in their care, even though they acknowledge the positive impact technology can have on a care recipient’s life. 

Sixty-seven percent of caregivers report that the older adult in their care has not started any new enrichment activities in the past two years, and most often seeks enrichment through watching television and talking on the phone, according to a new study from technology company Philips and the Global Social Enterprise Initiative (GSEI) at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.

Yet, 74% of family caregivers think teaching tech to seniors would be fun and 63% believe their care recipient is ready to learn. Time remains a key obstacle in moving forward with technology-based activities, as caregivers already spend an average of 11 work days per month on basic caregiving activities, the study finds.

“While 63% indicated that they believe they have the time to invest in teaching their care recipient a new technology, most caregivers in the study reported spending an average of 88 hours per month on caregiving activities,” the study says.

This is in addition to daily responsibilities – for instance, 72% work full time and 76% have children in their household, the study finds.

“When asked what they would do if technology could be employed to cut the time spent on caregiving duties in half, caregivers prioritized personal errands, quality time with their own family, and entertainment over spending more time with their older adult loved one,” the study says, noting that only 17% of the recovered time would be allocated toward spending more time with their care recipient.   

“Caregivers are so overwhelmed by the demands of managing basic needs that they tend to only think of technology as tools to save time or provide safety,” says Bill Novelli, founder of the Global Social Enterprise Initiative and Georgetown McDonough distinguished professor of the practice, in a statement. “We need to eliminate the disconnect between the caregivers’ ability to incorporate enriching technology into their care routines and their role in providing basic care for their loved ones.”

Also overlooked by many caregivers was how technology can provide social interaction and entertainment for care recipients.

“In addition to time constraints placed on the caregiver, the caregiver’s perception of what defines successful aging focuses on the health of the adult for which they are caring,” notes the study. “As a result, caregivers are viewing technology for aging well too narrowly — […] even though 73% acknowledge that the older adult in their care will become more reliant on them for entertainment and enrichment as they age.”

Written by Cassandra Dowell