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Digital Caregivers: Someone To Watch Over Your Aging Parents

Posted by Jerry De Luca on Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The eldercare crisis is already here and projected to get worse. In the United States 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 daily. The number of seniors age 80 and over between 2010 and 2030 will jump by 79%, but industry analysts expect only a 1% increase in the number of caregivers for the same period. Dementia, Alzheimer’s and other chronic conditions of the elderly pose great demands for loving families.

Several tech companies have developed possible solutions to the crisis to at least help alleviate the stresses and hardships for beleaguered caregivers. The firm getting the most attention, and by far the most ambitious and innovative, if not controversial, is CareCoach, based in San Francisco.

For only about $200 US per month the home-bound senior is watched over 24 hours a day from a Google Nexus tablet operated by a real human. The communication is done through an avatar, usually an adorable animated dog or cat. The person behind the screen, the digital caregiver, is invisible. The avatar reminds the senior to take his/her meds, keep appointments, do personal hygiene, and offers words of personal encouragement. All this based on extensive consultation and direction from the family. 

The digital caregivers are thoroughly trained. To keep the costs so low, most are working from Latin America or the Philippines. They do eight hour shifts and check on the senior through the tablet’s camera several times an hour. Each time this happens, the dog or cat avatar groggily appears to wake up. A thorough description in Wired magazine depicts one patient and his caregiver, Rodrigo:

“To talk, they type into the dashboard and their words are voiced robotically through the tablet, designed to give their charges the impression that they’re chatting with a friendly pet. Like all the CareCoach workers, Rodrigo keeps meticulous notes on the people he watches over so he can coordinate their care with other workers and deepen his relationship with them over time—this person likes to listen to Adele, this one prefers Elvis, this woman likes to hear Bible verses while she cooks. In one client’s file, he wrote a note explaining that the correct response to ‘See you later, alligator’ is ‘After a while, crocodile.’ These logs are all available to the customer’s social workers or adult children, wherever they may live.” 

This service has been gaining momentum, in use by hospitals and health plans across Massachusetts, California, New York, South Carolina, Florida and Washington State. The average monthly cost for a nursing home private room in the US is almost $8,000, making the $200 monthly CareCoach price attractive. The Wired article provides context for what is always a difficult family decision:

“But for many families, providing long-term in-person care is simply unsustainable. The average family caregiver has a job outside the home and spends about 20 hours a week caring for a parent, according to AARP. Nearly two-thirds of such caregivers are women. Among eldercare experts, there’s a resignation that the demographics of an aging America will make technological solutions unavoidable. The number of those older than 65 with a disability is projected to rise from 11 million to 18 million from 2010 to 2030. Given the option, having a digital companion may be preferable to being alone. Early research shows that lonely and vulnerable elders like Jim seem content to communicate with robots. Joseph Coughlin, director of MIT’s AgeLab, is pragmatic. ‘I would always prefer the human touch over a robot,’ he says. ‘But if there’s no human available, I would take high tech in lieu of high touch.’”

For those understandably cautious as to who is watching over their loved one, Wired interviewed founder and CEO Victor Wang, who gave a specific example of vetting:

“Before hiring her, Wang interviewed Paragas via video, then vetted her with an international criminal background check. He gives all applicants a personality test for certain traits: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. As part of the CareCoach training program, Paragas earned certifications in delirium and dementia care from the Alzheimer’s Association, trained in US health care ethics and privacy, and learned strategies for counseling those with addictions. All this, Wang says, ‘so we don’t get anyone who’s, like, crazy.’ CareCoach hires only about 1 percent of its applicants.”

What Happens When We Let Tech Care For Our Aging Parents  

Evaluation of a Digital Companion for Older Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment

Study Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine the feasibility of a digital companion system used by older adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). We utilized a commercially available system that is comprehensive in its functionalities (including conversation ability, use of pictures and other media, and reminders) to explore the system’s impact on older adults ‘ social interactions, anxiety, depressive symptoms, and acceptance of the system ……. Results: Ten female community-dwelling older adults (average age 78.3 years) participated in the study. Overall, participants utilized the tool regularly and appreciated its presence and their interactions. Participants scored higher at the end of the study in cognition and social support scales, and lower in presence of depressive symptoms.

3 Alternatives


“CareLinx is a nationwide professional caregiver marketplace, empowering families to easily find, hire, manage and pay licensed caregivers online. Our platform has more than 200,000 caregivers across the country.

“Hiring caregivers through CareLinx can save families as much as 50 percent than if they hired the same caregivers through brick and mortar franchise agencies.

“The CareLinx platform helps families and caregivers easily manage all the administrative tasks of their caregiving needs, including scheduling, time tracking, care coordination and payroll processing.

“CareLinx caregivers earn considerably higher wages than working through franchise agencies. Higher earning caregivers are more engaged and offer better quality care. All CareLinx caregivers hired by families are background checked and covered with $4 million in professional liability insurance.”


“FallCall Solutions, LLC is a company founded by physicians committed to improving the standards of elder care and safety through technology.  Our team spent the last several months building an application that created a simplified electronic relationship between caregivers and their loved ones.  The result...ElderCheck Now: an application that was exclusively designed for iPhone® and Apple Watch®. 

“When installed on both caregiver and elder devices, ElderCheck Now has the ability for a caregiver to maintain contact with their loved one any time of day through simplified, intuitive check-in screens right on a loved one’s wrist, or on their nearby iPhone.  What’s even better: after initially purchasing ElderCheck Now, there are NO SUBSCRIPTION FEES! Caregivers can check-in as many times as they want…Elders can respond as much as they want.  Whatever the situation, ElderCheck Now can be that extra link when you can’t be by someone’s side.”      

Intuition Robotics

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Photo: https://orig00.deviantart.net/1e59/f/2008/065/9/f/old_men_ii_by_bisiobisio.jpg

Jerry De Luca is a Christian freelance writer who loves perusing dozens of interesting and informative publications. When he finds any useful info he summarizes it, taking the main points, and creates a (hopefully) helpful blog post.


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