The population of aging baby boomers is well, booming. While there is an uptick in senior citizens requiring care, the same does not ring true for the number of potential caregivers. According to the AARP, by 2030 the ratio of possible caregivers to people ages 80 and over is four to one, as opposed to the 2010 ratio of seven to one. That’s a decline of more than 50 percent. When you consider the fact that this generation is also opting to age in place rather than retire to assisted living communities like their parents’ generation, it’s even more imperative that the industry shift focus away from the caregiving status quo and start creating innovative solutions to balance the scales. This is where AI – artificial intelligence – comes in.
While conspiracy theorists love stoking the fires of a good hostile robot takeover story, those in the healthcare industry have long understood that AI does not translate into artificial care. Both patient and caregiver alike can reap the benefits of programs and regimens powered by AI. For instance, sensor-based technology like wearables and robot assistants can be used to monitor patients’ sleep patterns, location, blood sugar, temperature, activity-level, accidents and more. These technologies can also provide reminders that help patients maintain healthy self-care behaviors like taking medications properly. For caregivers, these technologies can be used to stay in-tune with a patient’s schedule and behaviors via alerts and push notifications in times when you cannot be there to monitor these actions in person. Thus, providing patient’s with a certain-level of autonomy and caregivers with the freedom to handle personal affairs away from the patient with peace of mind.
From a logistics and business standpoint, AI can be used to implement simple measures that save time and effort for both parties, earning them back those hours to devote to their relationships with family and friends, as well as time for fun and relaxing activities. These measures include schedule automation and delivery for prescriptions, groceries and supplies. Additionally, automated billing and payment can help drastically reduce lapses in service that may be integral parts of one’s healthcare regimen. A major benefit of AI when it comes to healthcare is the ability to keep health records updated in real-time. This saves patients and caregivers the hassle of tracking down documents every time a patient experiences a new symptom or needs to bring-in another doctor or specialist to assess future care. Keeping data current can help doctors make informed diagnoses and create a well-rounded treatment plan that includes every aspect of the patient’s life and routine in a meaningful way.
The possibilities for the future of AI-charged caregiving are seemingly endless. At the pace things are moving, AI companions with distinct personalities that can maintain full-on conversations with patients may be commonplace by the time this caregiver shortage is in full swing 10 years down the line, providing both the logistical aspects of caregiving and the mental facets. For now, those on the cutting edge of the caregiving industry have the resources at hand to make the transition for the boomers (along with their family, friends and professional caregivers) more comfortable than retirees who came before them. Despite the oncoming shortage of actual human caregivers, those who are stepping up to care for an aging parent, friend, etc. who requires assistance will have the ability to maximize every step in the care process and moment of quality time together through the power of AI.