Reducing the distance in distance-caregiving by technology innovation
Lazelle E Benefield1, Cornelia Beck2
1College of Nursing, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; 2Pat & Willard Walker Family Memory Research Center, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, Arkansas, USA
Abstract: Family caregivers are responsible for the home care of over 34 million older adults in the United States. For many, the elder family member lives more than an hour’s distance away. Distance caregiving is a growing alternative to more familiar models where: 1) the elder and the family caregiver(s) may reside in the same household; or 2) the family caregiver may live nearby but not in the same household as the elder. The distance caregiving model involves elders and their family caregivers who live at some distance, defined as more than a 60-minute commute, from one another. Evidence suggests that distance caregiving is a distinct phenomenon, differs substantially from on-site family caregiving, and requires additional assistance to support the physical, social, and contextual dimensions of the caregiving process. Technology-based assists could virtually connect the caregiver and elder and provide strong support that addresses the elder’s physical, social, cognitive, and/or sensory impairments. Therefore, in today’s era of high technology, it is surprising that so few affordable innovations are being marketed for distance caregiving. This article addresses distance caregiving, proposes the use of technology innovation to support caregiving, and suggests a research agenda to better inform policy decisions related to the unique needs of this situation.
Keywords: caregiving, family, distance, technology, elders