President's Message: "The Future is Now"

By Mary Rita Hurley, MPA, RN, FNGNA

Two interesting things have happened recently. One, I visited a high tech home in Tacoma Washington, and the other is an article I read in the March 2014 AARP magazine titled, “Is this the end of the nursing home”? Of course, I thought this was a “sign” that I needed to get up to speed with the latest technology in regards to the care of older adults.

When I attended the Northwest NGNA chapter’s bimonthly meeting at the Tacoma Lutheran Retirement Center (TLRC), we were invited to tour the TLRC Innovations Home. This home promotes safer, longer, active, independent living through the incorporation of the latest and affordable technologies. Much of what we saw was a ‘no brainer,’ for us gero nurses. For example, a jumbo remote, remote overhead lights, touch lights, faucets, PC with voice recognition, a couch cane, and more. Our group was not aware of these innovations, and we were amazed at the common sense designs and applications. There were many items that we all wanted to purchase - such as the washer/dryer combo and the robot vacuum!

As we toured the facility, the light bulb went on for me, as I realized that this technology is available for the people we care for. Most of the technology is affordable and easily purchased and installed. Because this incorporates community education, we can promote education within our respective communities and include the vendors to answer questions and make recommendations. This is nursing education and awareness. It is what we do!

One AARP article recently highlighted a system called “Lively.” You can place sensors on pillboxes, the refrigerator, microwave bathroom, and car keys then log on remotely to “see” the activity of your loved ones. Talk about peace of mind for caregivers, families, and the care team.

Given that 40% of US adults’ ages 85+ live alone, as well as a third 65 and older, it seems logical to embrace these new technologies. Currently, more than 4 in 10 US adults are caring for an adult or child with major health issues and 5-7 million are long distance caregivers. These numbers are staggering.

More and more people are embracing these new technologies. It gives older adults a chance with more confidence to live on their own, and keeps families from making the gut wrenching decision of removing a parent from their home. As gerontological nurses, we need to be aware of and recommend these devices. As “care” continues to move back into the home, we are and will be pivotal to successful aging in place. The AARP article included that Medicaid may reimburse for some aging-in-place technologies but currently Medicare does not. Why is that?

Now is the time to join our NGNA Policy Committee to begin the process of affecting change. It is time to become engaged in adding another change to our health care system. By activating our Policy Committee, we can begin research to identify cost savings to the system when correlated to the cost of alternative living situations coupled with older adult and family testimonials. Emailing and scheduling face-to face meetings with your legislators are very effective. They want to hear from their constituents; they want to hear from us. Every one of us in our respective cities should be locating our senior services organizations and identifying community agencies that have grant funding and other resources to assist families who are in greatest need. There is no one more suited for this advocate role than the gerontological nurse and our colleagues!

All the best,
Mary Rita Hurley, RN, MPA, FNGNA