“I don’t know if you have aging parents, but they often will tell one child one thing and another child another thing—so we all have pieces of the puzzle, but connecting them is really important,” says Kristina Lugo.
A social worker who works in aging services, Lugo often sees this intergenerational dynamic play out. But she also knows it firsthand, through her experience overseeing the medical needs of her parents who live in Florida, nearly 3,000 miles away from her home in California. With her brother in Massachusetts and her sister in Florida, the siblings have sometimes struggled to keep everyone in the loop on appointments and treatments.
More than three-quarters of adults want to continue living in their homes as they grow older—a practice known as “aging in place.” Family members, friends, home health aides, and health care providers are all often involved in the care for these community-dwelling older adults, but crucial details can easily get lost between them.
Through her work with older adults and their caregivers, Tina Sadarangani, an assistant professor at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing, saw an opportunity to use technology to bridge this gap. Following several years of research and development supported by grants from the National Institute on Aging, Sadarangani created CareMobi, a free smartphone app that connects caregivers with health care providers around the care and wellbeing of older adults.
In CareMobi, users can log important data including a person’s medications, vital signs, appointments, meals and appetite, sleep, and more, and then share this knowledge with their care team within the app.
“Keeping better track of day-to-day health information can help us nip emerging problems in the bud. Our goal is to keep people out of hospitals and emergency rooms by improving communication, and support caregivers as effective advocates by offering data and participating in shared clinical decision making,” says Sadarangani.
Through her mother’s shoulder replacement surgery and her father’s cancer treatment, Lugo has used CareMobi to take notes and provide her family with updates.
“An app like CareMobi is amazing, because if my father has an evaluation next week, I can put that in the app and share it with my siblings. It helps me to communicate what I know to the rest of the family, and they can use it to communicate back,” Lugo says.
One setting that Sadarangani designed CareMobi for is adult day care centers, also known as adult day services or adult day programs, which support the health, nutritional, social, and daily living needs of older adults who live at home. There are roughly 5,000 of these centers in the United States that serve nearly 300,000 frail or disabled adults.
“Professionally, I can see this app really working in our adult day centers,” adds Lugo, who works at Avenidas, which runs a series of programs for community-dwelling older adults in California and has participated in Sadarangani’s research. Lugo noted that adult day care center staff can easily enter a day’s worth of activities to report back to caregivers—including what someone ate that day, what activities they took part in, and any issues that arose.