Wearables have been a major market trend among tech giants, and these devices may have strong health benefits too. Per the U.S. National Library of Medicine, more than 110 million wearable fitness devices will be in use by 2018. Meanwhile, approximately 19 million were sold in 2016. These devices enable users to track fitness goals, monitor overall health concerns, recognize potential health problems and stay in contact with others. Consequently, the increasing use of these devices may help to expand health care.
The line between recreational and medical devices is growing faint. Your organization might be able to improve how it provides services to people living with intellectual or developmental disability (IDD) by using smartwatches and other wearables during work. So, it is in your best interest to think about how these devices can be leveraged to provide better care and support your team.
1. Smartwatches Help DSPs Manage Behavioral Issues.
Behavioral therapy is an essential tool in providing services to children, teens and adults with intellectual disability. However, new techniques and tools for behavioral therapy are constantly being developed, tested and reviewed. Thus, direct support professionals (DSPs) and other caregivers face the prospects of filling out endless forms to report a specific therapy’s progress or drawbacks. However, wearables offer a solution.
Through voice-controlled commands, wearables allow DSPs to dictate a person’s response and possible issues immediately. Moreover, this is achieved without spending countless hours noting charts or documenting with pen and paper. These voice-controlled commands open the door to using devices to provide real-time feedback on the efficacy of therapies, allowing behavioral therapists to alter treatment strategies accordingly. Meanwhile, the devices can also give DSPs alternative options when an intervention strategy fails, promoting a more educated and connected workforce.
2. Increased Accessibility Options Make Wearables Ideal for Individuals With Intellectual Disability.
Aggression and negative responses from those with intellectual disability may be more common when a miscommunication exists. Think about it: if you could not voice how you feel, you would likely become frustrated and angry. These emotions are present in people with an IDD too, but smartwatches and wearable devices are changing that tune. In addition, the benefits of wearables extend to DSPs as well as the individuals served.
Modern devices can translate speech into other languages, breaking down cultural barriers. For people who have trouble communicating verbally, devices can be a lifeline for showing caregivers what they need.
For example, an app may use pictures to enable communication, such as AACORN, which adapts to a person’s specific language trends and style. The goal of improving communication is met through these accessibility features. As society advances, the finesse and capability of accessibility features will likely expand.
3. Safety Features Improve Accountability and Managing Incidents in Care Settings.
Location settings are among the key uses of wearables because they link to the GPS settings from a user’s phone. For DSPs, this could help other caregivers or managerial staff locate a specific team member remotely. While this may seem to intrude on a person’s privacy rights, it does have significant safety benefits.
For example, a DSP transporting a person to a physician’s appointment might be involved in an automobile collision. Provided the caregiver’s phone is within the vehicle, the smartwatch could be used to call for help and report where the incident occurs, which could be especially helpful in the event of a serious injury. Similarly, if a person receiving services were to become violent, the smartwatch could be used to request assistance through voice activation.
4. Wearables Enable Better Management of Co-occurring Health Conditions.
Certain health ailments tend to affect people with developmental disabilities more often than the general public. For example, people with fragile X syndrome might suffer from congenital heart problems or additional cardiovascular issues in life. Thus, taking medications and maintaining appointments with appropriate care providers is essential to reducing the risk of suffering a life-threatening event.
Smartwatches can improve overall case management by helping people remember when an appointment is scheduled or when to take medications through a “virtual pillbox,” explains Brian Hughes of Small Business Trends. DSPs often have busy schedules, with daily activities easily numbering into the hundreds, so keeping track of time can become a burden. However, smartwatches can go the extra step by improving a person’s time management skills or helping caregivers monitor their own health concerns, reports Science Daily, reducing risk for your organization.
5. Widespread Use of Wearables in Care Settings Reduce Cost of Care.
The overall cost of wearable devices, including smartwatches, appears to be decreasing, which means that organizations and people living with intellectual disability may be able to obtain a device soon. Meanwhile, the benefits of smartwatches while working might encourage employers and community-based organizations to purchase devices for staff members to use.
Organizations can avoid blurring the lines between personal and professional use by purchasing and retaining the devices at specific care settings. Much like the report passed along during shift change, the smartwatch could be passed to oncoming staff members. Of course, each staff member would link his or her smartphone to the device. For facilities already providing smartphones to DSPs for work, this would not be a concern.
The Big Picture
Only time will tell how much the IDD community embraces the possibilities and benefits of smartwatches and other wearables. Today, people living with intellectual or developmental disabilities can start taking advantage of these devices, and DSPs can benefit from the communication and reminder functions. Ultimately, smartwatches and wearables can help you serve people with intellectual disability, improving efficiency and reducing costs along the way.
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