This week’s Modern Aging blog post comes from an American medical illustrator with a passion to improve health communication for elderly through visual media. Please read about the digital tool she is developing:
“I am excited to share with you an idea I have been developing as a social innovation for the elderly in health care. Today I will tell you about myself, and why I am considering the health needs of the elderly in Sweden. I will introduce the problem needing attention and how I propose to tackle it. Finally, I will let you know how you can connect with me if you would like to be part of this dialogue!
So who am I, and what brought me to Sweden? Well, my name is Anneliese, and I am an American citizen with Swedish heritage from both sides of my family. In 2010 I traveled to the “motherland” to see where my farmor, and my mormors parents came from. While visiting, I bonded with new friends and distant relatives, but visiting with relatives from my grandparent’s generation over fika was particularly special for me. During that trip I decided I wanted to come back to Sweden to study and experience more of Swedish society.
While back in the US making plans to return to Sweden, I was witness to the failing health and death of my mormor, Anna, and morfar, Winston. Winston lost his life, at 93 years of age, as a result of Alzheimer’s. While Anna, who suffered from morbidities common in the elderly, died only a few months after at 91 years. These experiences with my own family helped me to realize many of the challenges facing our aging global population. Now, I look to apply my education, work experience and research to help address these challenges.
My recent research has focused on the communications between patients and their care providers. The clinical setting can present many communication barriers, including a power dynamic between the patient, with limited knowledge, and the care provider, with greater knowledge. For the elderly, dementia, learning style, literacy and language skills can also contribute to communication barriers they face when determining their health needs. Further, many elderly patients have an increased number of health appointments where they might struggle to remember what to ask their care provider, or may not be aware of the proper questions to ask. Additionally, they will need to remember details communicated to them after an appointment. If not recorded, these details can be easily forgotten. My solution is simple, “Ask for Answers.”
Ask for Answers is a media based tool (web/app), which aims to arm the aging population with the questions they should have available when visiting a health provider. The questions target their specific communication needs and are broken down by medical specialties to be more effective. Patients can use the electronic interface to access their questions, type answers, exchange email with the provider, record audio of answers – which can then be transcribed, and even take photos of drawings or notes. The information would then be accessible later when the patient may have trouble recalling details from the appointment, or need to share them with another care provider.
Ask for Answers is centered on improving health communications between care providers and the elderly. It is a simple, user-friendly tool that focuses on enabling and empowering aging patients to better manage their health. With the aid of Ask for Answers, patient knowledge and satisfaction may increase, potentially resulting in improved health outcomes.”
Written by Anneliese Lilienthal
Continuing our blog series, Modern Aging Ideas, this week we are featuring the entrepreneur Oscar Lundqvist who is developing a tool that allows relatives to elderly staying at nursing homes, to stay updated on activities and wellbeing of their beloved parents and grandparents. Please read about Oscar’s work experience at a nursing home which lead to his discovering of a need for innovation:
This fall I am a participant of the Modern Aging program that Access Health International is running. The program is full of lectures and workshops that educate and inspire us about the elderly care market, innovations and business training. They are doing their best to give us all the helpful tools you need if you want to succeed with a new idea on the elderly care market.
I first heard about the Modern Aging program on Carema Care’s webpage. Before that, I was choosing between two different future plans; either to work with elderly care or to be an entrepreneur. When I read about the Modern Aging application, the thought of combining the two future plans hit me for the first time.
My interest in elderly care began when I shortly after high school started working for the private care provider Carema Care. I worked there for three years with purchasing food for a nursing home. My plans for entrepreneurship were ignited as a student at Södertörns University. I am currently studying my last year in a three-year program in entrepreneurship, innovation and market.
The idea that I applied to the Modern Aging program with was formed during my time at the nursing home. I observed that there was a broad mix of relatives to the elderly in the home with varying visiting habits. Some relatives were there every day, others once a month and some visited only on rare occasions. But they all had something in common; the next of kin always wanted to know how their relative was feeling. When they were visiting they would ask the staff questions about the elderly’s health and about what kind of activities their relative had been enrolled in.
For full-time working relatives, it may not be feasible to visit the elderly every week, which prevents them from keeping up to date with the activity board posted by the care workers in the hallway and to have a good dialogue with the contact person. And in many cases, the relatives feel guilt about these scenarios. If the staff could update the relatives online on how the elderly is feeling, what kind of activities are going on and opening up for a dialogue with the staff directly through a smartphone app or by logging on to a webpage, many of these problems would be solved.
If the next of kin was updated all the time it would bring a feeling of security for them and it may also improve the communication between all involved parties. And if the staff were required to post information about the activities of the elderly, that would be an additional incentive for them to activate the elderly more. Based on my experience working at a nursing home, these are very important benefits that affect both the relatives and the elderly.
This present an easy solution to a great concern that many relatives are posed with and I would argue that this kind of technological tool should be standard for each and every elderly being cared for at a nursing home and their relatives.