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Aging Parents Fighting for Independence: Sound Familiar?

Posted Jan 31 2011 4:38am

My Mom and Dad

Both of my parents are now in their 80s. Neither one gets around very well, and both have health issues. But they are fighting to maintain their independence. Sound familiar? They recently packed up everything, put their one story home in Beaufort, NC on the market, and moved to Pensacola, Florida to be closer to my oldest sister and her grown kids. But they didn’t move into a continuing care retirement community. As my mother puts it: “I won’t move into an institution!” Great. So, they are renting a really nice condominium right on the bay – still living on their own – but within reach of my sister and nephew. If I want to see them, I have to get on an airplane and connect through either Atlanta or Charlotte. I believe my family is fairly representative of the distributed lifestyle in the US. In addition to my family members in Pensacola, I have sisters in Northern California (two of them) and Vermont. Most of us are not in the position to provide in-home care for our parents.

Millions of younger baby boomers are in my position – trying to stay close to aging parents and helping guide them through health issues that seem to arise weekly. We’re caregivers – and a lot of us are doing it long distance. It is stressful and challenging, but what choice do we have, particularly when our parents resist or can’t afford moving into a CCRC? Mine are just stubborn, in an endearing way.

Because I am both a blogger and a healthcare marketer, I get contacted weekly by businesses who have developed some new healthcare-related technology that they need help marketing. Most of them don’t have a marketing plan and really have no sense of the marketability of their product or service. They have a product in search of a market. Occasionally one of these businesses captures my attention. That was the case a couple weeks ago when Harry Bailes of Family Health Network contacted me and introduced me to his Connected for Life program. It probably caught my attention because I am living through the exact situation it is designed to address: being a long distance caregiver for aging parents who want to maintain their independence. Although my firm tends to approach early stage technology companies with caution, it didn’t take long for my team to see the potential of this service and to sign on as their marketing arm. (We typically work with medical centers, hospitals, health systems and established life science companies.)

Using the Connected for Life program, families like mine can keep in touch with aging parents via the Internet. I know what you’re thinking: seniors often struggle with and are resistant to technology. In the case of my parents, my dad is fine with email and surfing the web, but gets lost when it comes to Facebook and other social media. My mom doesn’t even deal with email. Connected for Life was designed with my parents in mind. Family Health Network has developed an approach that not only allows seniors to use the computer but allows them to engage in meaningful interactions with those who care for them, both family and professional.  “Technology can help but only if it is usable and used. Connected for Life simplifies and enriches our family connections by enabling people to stay connected even if living apart.” (Family Health Network Website) This is senior-friendly technology, designed to make online interaction as simple as possible.

Family Health Network’s Connected for Life online program does a great job of breaking down longstanding barriers to technology use by seniors and enables communication with friends, family members, caregivers and healthcare professionals. In testing, seniors using the technology have found the program to be empowering, opening up new worlds and giving them unprecedented access to their circle of care, their church, their community, and the world. This is a truly liberating technology!

One of the really cool aspects of this technology is its ability to you keep track of your parent’s general health and health compliance long distance. The Connected for Life program allows family members and health care professionals to remotely monitor, record, and track a senior’s health status and medications on a daily basis. By providing real-time information sharing with caregivers and healthcare providers, this low cost program allows seniors to maintain their independence, brings families together, relieves stress of caregivers, lowers the cost of care, and improves quality of life.

Rather than go into a ton of detail here, check out this introductory video below:

If you’d like to learn more about Family Health Network and its Connected for Life program, visit them online at http://www.familyhealthnetwork.com or follow them on twitter at http://twitter.com/connectdforlife .

Post by Dan Dunlop, The Healthcare Marketer


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