Recently, Sally Abrahms published an article in the March 2014 AARP Bulletin highlighting the new technology that can allow elder adults to receive in-home care through the use of technology. Essentially, Ms. Abrahms stated that through use of a live-feed and remote monitoring technology, children, guardians, and caretakers of elder adults can provide caregiving functions without actually being present in the home. The caregiver can place sensors on pillboxes, refrigerators, bathrooms, and doors within the home and can then monitor the elderly adult through the use of these sensors. The caregiver knows when the elderly adult takes medications, opens doors, eats, sleeps, and his or her whereabouts within the house at any given time of day. Should an adult forget to take his or her medication, become injured, or wander out the door, the caregiver can easily alert the elder adult to take the medication or notify authorities of a possible accident. This technology essentially allows an elder adult to live in the comfort of the home, while still retaining the care and assistance of others, with those other persons only a remote-click away.
Interestingly, it has been noted that this new technology could eventually replace nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the near future. However, it is important to note that as recent as 2012, about 58,500 paid, regulated long-term care services providers served about 8 million people in the United States. Long-term care services were provided by 4,800 adult day services centers, 12,200 home health agencies, 3,700 hospices, 15,700 nursing homes, and 22,200 assisted living and similar residential care communities. Each day in 2012, there were 273,200 participants enrolled in adult day services centers, 1,383,700 residents in nursing homes, and 713,300 residents in residential care communities; in 2011, about 4,742,500 patients received services from home health agencies, and 1,244,500 patients received services from hospices. Thus, it becomes quite difficult to imagine that these large numbers of individuals and care facilities can be replaced by a simple remote sensor, computer monitor, or technology alert.
Additionally, the technology argument fails to account for government programs, Medicaid funding, and private payment in order to care for these elder adults. While Medicaid may reimburse for some of this technology, Medicare does not. Additionally, the large number of individuals placed into nursing homes generally cannot afford in-home or assisted-living care, and so they will probably not be able to afford this new technology as well. Individuals will most likely have to pay out-of-pocket expenses at a hefty price tag in order to receive this technological assistance while still maintaining the daily expenses of living at home. Therefore, this new wave of technology for elder adults and assisted living individuals really applies to only a select few individuals: those who can maintain an individual lifestyle by themselves, and that require no need for a nursing home care attendant.
In conclusion, although the new technology provides seemingly boundless limitations to the elder community and the caregivers responsible for these individuals, it will still not replace the need for nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, and elder care hospices. In fact, as recent statistics suggest, there is a strong need for an increase in the construction and implementation of these facilities due to the increasing aging of the baby boomer generation. Therefore, while technological developments have greatly assisted those “aging-in-place” individuals, the need for nursing homes and assistance facilities should be driving the legal and technological landscape for the future.