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

More workers are also caregivers to a friend or family member on their off hours, and employers can provide digital tools to support them, according to “Digital Tools and Solutions for Caregivers: An Employer’s Guide” developed by the Northeast Business Group on Health and AARP.

“Digital tools are not solutions in themselves but they are an important component of a forward-thinking benefits package that can significantly ease the burden on caregivers’ time and can help diminish the mental and emotional burdens associated with caregiving,” guide states.

Related: How to help clients use family caregiver benefits

What do caregivers want technology to do for them? The guide cites a 2016 survey by AARP and Project Catalyst, which found that caregivers want technology to help them coordinate care and disseminate information among family members, friends and care providers; remotely monitor or check on their loved one; and manage all aspects of medication in one place, including obtaining prescriptions and refills for all medications from all available providers, and helping their loved one adhere to their meds schedule.

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

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

“It is important to recognize that implementation of any digital tool or set of tools is greatly enhanced by human support,” the guide states. “Caregivers often operate under enormous stress and time constraints. The seemingly simple act of searching for and learning to use a new tool may prove an insurmountable barrier.”

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

To encourage workers who are caregivers to ask for support, the guide recommends that employers offer AARP’s Caregiver Assessment Tool to start a conversation about how best to support them at work. Employers might also want to consider offering them “CareMaps” devised by the non-profit organization Atlas of Caregiving, which helps caregivers visualize who is in their ecosystem of care and how each of those players either assists in that care or requires care themselves.

The guide also gives pointers on how employers can assess the value of their digital health investments, including measuring cost-related outcomes regarding employee attrition, productivity and a reduction in utilization of working hours devoted to caregiving tasks. Employers might also want to measure health outcomes such as reductions in employee stress levels, as well as employee engagement levels, employee satisfaction and employee empowerment.

“Offering a user-friendly, cutting-edge, high-tech tool—together with a high-touch, quality focused digital caregiving support program at the workplace—can indicate to employees that their employer is committed to creating a culture of health and well-being, especially when employees incur some cost savings,” the guide states. “The savings employees realize can also boost engagement and adherence. Engaging and effective digital tools have also been shown to increase employee satisfaction with healthcare benefits.”

The 36-page guide also includes a list of tools available, such as digital platforms that connect caregivers to other caregivers and those with similar diagnoses, medical management tools and in-home patient monitoring tools. It also walks employers through the process of developing a digital tools program.

More ways to offer support for employee caregivers: