Technology is Essential in Aged Care
By William Cowie
Don’t be afraid of technology in aged care!
You may be a technophobe or a technophile; either way, you’ll probably agree the rise of computers and other technology is almost undeniable. If you’re studying your aged care course online, you’ve probably already experienced many of the benefits technology can provide for education – flexibility of schedule, always-on access to study materials and self-paced learning. The benefits of advancements in technology do not stop there though. There are many applications for technology in medicine, and specifically aged care, that you will likely encounter or even pioneer in your career, once you complete your aged care training. So let’s explore some applications of technology in caring for the elderly and don’t be afraid to let us know if you think of any more!
High speed internet in aged care homes and personal residences
Laying down a strong foundation is essential – and the internet is the backbone of much technological advancement today. As high speed fibre internet rolls out in Australia courtesy of the National Broadband Network (NBN), it will open up many new opportunities to apply technology to the care of the elderly. Video conferencing, national or international cloud based medical databases, virtual classrooms, online aged care courses and training, monitoring devices and even digital games and social technologies all have applications for aged care.
You, as an aged care worker and medical health professional, will likely rely on many online resources to provide the best level of care to your wards. It will also help you to achieve the levels of productivity we need in Australia to effectively look after the growing number of aged patients relying on your aged care training and skills to live a high quality of life.
Video conferencing for aged care
You may have experienced the benefits of internet video conferencing in your social and family life or even in your online aged care course or training. The applications don’t stop there! Online video conferencing is an amazing technology helping to collapse the distances between people. This is particularly important in a geographically dispersed population as we have in Australia.
Like education, health care can be more efficiently delivered to remote areas using conferencing technology. Patients and health care professionals can have face to face conversations and consultations without the need for either to travel long distances. Video technology is also important for helping the elderly in residential care homes stay in closer contact with family and friends – “telehealth suites” will likely become a common feature in the care facilities where you’ll work.
Centralised medical databases for the elderly (and not so elderly)
You may have experienced “cloud” technology already. It’s a great way for students and teachers to store and share information and resources online. Centralised, cloud based medical databases also have great potential to improve care for your future patients. Complete medical histories can be stored in one place and accessed from anywhere in the country or even the world, helping to deliver more efficient, effective care.
You’ll be able to use mobile devices such as tablets to enter and upload medications and procedures you perform, helping you track the work you’ve done and know which patients need care, and when. Monitoring devices can upload straight to the database and even alert you when something goes wrong so you can be on hand to help. Online, centralised and cloud based databases offer huge potential to improve how you care for your ageing patients in facilities and in their own homes.
Digital games and other social technology
Videogames are for children right? Not anymore! Gaming technology has advanced significantly and is often at the forefront of applying and bringing new technologies into the public spotlight. Existing game technologies like the Kinect and Wii can be a fun tool to help the elderly stay fit.
These technologies are also inherently designed to be social. With the addition of an internet connection, elderly people isolated from their extended families, because they live in aged care homes, can play games and chat with their families. All within the game!
More cerebrally challenging puzzle games help the mind stay active, as can the act of learning to use new technology itself. Games have evolved past simple pastimes and can now be powerful tools to affect great outcomes for your future wards.
Online aged care courses & virtual classrooms
Online training will likely be increasingly used to keep your aged care accreditation and qualifications up to date in the future. If you’re studying the Certificate 3 in Aged Care or other aged care courses online already, you probably appreciate the benefits of online study.
Online courses, coupled with powerful tools like video conferencing, have the potential to rapidly train many aged care professionals in new tools and techniques – quickly, cheaply and efficiently. You need to learn a new procedure? Instead of having a teacher go from workplace to workplace teaching a small group at each one, they can simply hold an online conference and train people across the country in one hit. If you’re not already studying using the internet, get used to doing courses and qualifications online!
The Australian aged care crisis
We have something of a crisis in Australia – a rapidly ageing population and a deficit of resources to provide the high quality of care we expect and deserve in our old age. Effectively applying technology to aged care could potentially:
• improve standards of care for the elderly;
• increase health and social outcomes;
• improve the efficiency and productivity of the workforce; and
• improve education and training through online aged care courses, training, certificates and qualifications.
Embrace the technology, work with it, and overcome the initial ‘teething’ period many new initiatives will inevitably experience, and the aged care industry can benefit enormously.
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