woman and elderly man Digitaltools can also help caregivers connect with others in similarsituations for peer support, restore balance to their lives andhelp them feel less lonely and guilty. (Photo: iStock)

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More workers are also caregivers to a friend or family member ontheir off hours, and employers can provide digital tools tosupport them, according to “Digital Tools and Solutions for Caregivers: AnEmployer's Guide” developed by the Northeast Business Group onHealth and AARP.

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“Digital tools are not solutions in themselves but they are animportant component of a forward-thinking benefits package that cansignificantly ease the burden on caregivers' time and can helpdiminish the mental and emotional burdens associated withcaregiving,” guide states.

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Related: How to help clients use family caregiverbenefits

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What do caregivers want technology to do for them? The guidecites a 2016 survey by AARP and Project Catalyst, which found thatcaregivers want technology to help them coordinate care anddisseminate information among family members, friends and careproviders; remotely monitor or check on their loved one; and manageall aspects of medication in one place, including obtainingprescriptions and refills for all medications from all availableproviders, and helping their loved one adhere to their medsschedule.

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Caregivers also want technology to help them navigate allaspects of the health care system and associated documentation,including financial and insurance benefits and claims, medicalprocedures and records, and legal procedures and records.

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Digital tools can also help caregivers connect with others insimilar situations for peer support, restore balance to their livesand help them feel less lonely and guilty.

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“It is important to recognize that implementation of any digitaltool or set of tools is greatly enhanced by human support,” theguide states. “Caregivers often operate under enormous stress andtime constraints. The seemingly simple act of searching for andlearning to use a new tool may prove an insurmountablebarrier.”

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The guide suggests two types of human support for caregivers: atech coach who can show them how to use a particular digital tooland help troubleshoot if there are any problems; and a carecoordinator who can help them find third-party care or provide fullcase management for their loved one.

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To encourage workers who are caregivers to ask for support, theguide recommends that employers offer AARP's Caregiver AssessmentTool to start a conversation about how best to support them atwork. Employers might also want to consider offering them“CareMaps” devised by the non-profit organization Atlas ofCaregiving, which helps caregivers visualize who is in theirecosystem of care and how each of those players either assists inthat care or requires care themselves.

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The guide also gives pointers on how employers can assess thevalue of their digital health investments, including measuringcost-related outcomes regarding employee attrition, productivityand a reduction in utilization of working hours devoted tocaregiving tasks. Employers might also want to measure healthoutcomes such as reductions in employee stress levels, as well asemployee engagement levels, employee satisfaction and employeeempowerment.

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“Offering a user-friendly, cutting-edge, high-tech tool—togetherwith a high-touch, quality focused digital caregiving supportprogram at the workplace—can indicate to employees that theiremployer is committed to creating a culture of health andwell-being, especially when employees incur some cost savings,” theguide states. “The savings employees realize can also boostengagement and adherence. Engaging and effective digital tools havealso been shown to increase employee satisfaction with healthcarebenefits.”

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The 36-page guide also includes a list of tools available, suchas digital platforms that connect caregivers to other caregiversand those with similar diagnoses, medical management tools andin-home patient monitoring tools. It also walks employers throughthe process of developing a digital tools program.

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More ways to offer support for employeecaregivers:

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Katie Kuehner-Hebert

Katie Kuehner-Hebert is a freelance writer based in Running Springs, Calif. She has more than three decades of journalism experience, with particular expertise in employee benefits and other human resource topics.