The Coronavirus caused a revolution in elder care – what happened?
The whole world has been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Elder care organizations and families that take care of the elderly had to quickly figure out how to provide their services safely. Tomas Posker describes what exactly is going on in the care industry and how the situation in the Czech Republic differs from the rest of the world.
We had to minimize personal visits to the elderly overnight
Caregiving organizations and families faced a very difficult task: to make sure that the elderly get all the care and support they need with the added challenge of having to minimize personal contact. The lack of disinfectant and face masks made this issue even more complicated. The care industry quickly understood that technology is the only way out of this situation. Technology will allow caregivers to take care of senior citizens online without personal visits.
I have noticed that the caregiving industry is somewhat conservative. However, this pandemic has pushed companies out of their comfort zone. And I'm glad it happened, although it could have happened under better circumstances I believe that tools for remote or online care are our only hope in preventing a caregiving crisis that is just about to come.
The population is aging, life paths of potential family caregivers are diverted and in general, there are less and less people that choose the caregiving career. Especially because these job positions are paid very poorly and are often mentally and physically exhausting. The use of technology is thus the only way to provide elderly with care they deserve and need. We must realize that we won't have enough people to provide care in person.
Technology allows us to take care of the elderly remotely and more effectively
Our platform for remote elder care is used mainly by caregiving companies abroad where the distances between caregivers and care recipients are larger than in the Czech Republic. However, even in the Czech Republic, Oscar Senior already helps the city of Jeseník as an easy-to-use app for Senior Taxi.
For example, seniors can easily order a taxi ride to the doctor and back immediately and they can even choose their driver. Beforehand, they had to order the ride at least 24 hours earlier and there was only one driver available paid by the city. The Oscar Senior app allows the city to cooperate with all the taxi drivers they have available in the area so the whole service is now ready and available during days and nights, too.
Oscar Senior is also implemented in one caregiving company that uses the platform for online video calls with care recipients instead of regular personal visits. They wanted to be able to stay in touch with the care recipient rather than to visit them once every two days.
In general, the tools for remote care help caregiving organizations increase efficiency and save resources. In the US, caregivers spend about 19% of their time traveling to the clients and about 20% these visits last only up to 15 minutes. That is a significant waste of time because such short visits can be done over video calls and other apps enabling the caregiver to e.g. set up meds reminders, fill in prescriptions or do exercise online. The caregivers and seniors just need a smartphone or a tablet and suddenly, care providing organizations can save one working day of each caregiver per week. That is a lot of time they can use to focus on truly urgent personal visits or new care recipients.
So why hasn’t technology conquered the care industry before?
Caregiving organizations don't have the budget
A lot of initiatives emerged in the Czech Republic and abroad that support families and family caregivers to stay in touch with grandparents even during social distancing in quarantine. But the situation is different for caregiving organizations. Even before the corona crisis it was very difficult for them to find a budget for any investments or new technology.
Issues with financing professional care providers are even bigger in the Czech Republic than in the US, Great Britain or Australia. Today's generation of elderly (and their kids) isn't willing or able to pay for private care so they end up in caregiving facilities.
Financing care facilities is complicated and overregulated. The money comes from many fragmented sources and the state also defines the maximal fees for provision of certain services. However, these fees don't usually cover even the bigger part of operating costs and they also do not help create a competitive environment.
Caregiving facilities often just simply don't have the budget to implement technological gadgets however beneficial these could be for their businesses..
Nevertheless, the pandemic has now pushed care providers and basically forced them to find time and resources for implementing technological tools for remote and online care. If they didn't do it they would fail to deliver anything they promised to their care recipients and their families.
Will technology keep its place in the caregiving industry even after the crisis?
Who knows. We are now offering our Oscar Senior platform for two months free of charge. But the question remains - will caregiving organizations be willing to pay for technological gadgets after the coronavirus crisis? I still believe that when they see how much time and financial costs they can actually save with such a platform for remote care they will be more willing to find some money in their tight budgets. Even though the platform doesn't cost a fortune, it still is a hit to the tight budgets of elder care providers. And often they simply cannot afford it.
Tomas Posker is CEO of Oscar Senior, a platform for remote care used by elder care providers and Oscar Family app for families so they can easily stay in touch with their elderly relatives living far away. As an ambassador of Aging2.0, Tomas leads the discussion about aging and related topics with the community and professional public.
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