Feeling overwhelmed by the stress, work and effort that goes into taking care of your loved one? You're not alone, not by a long shot. Some of our country's best and brightest are working voraciously to help you out.
Research being done at institutions like MIT's AgeLab and Stanford's Center on Longevity are paving the way to an easier and kinder future for both caregiver and senior through the use of new and exciting technologies.
Below is a sampling of technologies that can relieve some of the burdens and stresses of caregiving, while enhancing everyone's health, safety and happiness!
Feeling secure and knowing your loved one is ok when you're not around is essential. The good news is there are a host of remote monitoring technologies and services emerging to help with just that:
- Remote Cameras: You can place multiple cameras, with full two way audio throughout your loved one's home. This can allow you to see that their ok. The challenge with remote cameras is that some may view it as an invasion of privacy. Finding the right balance between privacy and security is something that can be negotiated.
- Remote Home Monitoring: Best Buy's Assured Living is betting big on elderly remote monitoring with comprehensive home packages that including seating sensors, motion detectors, cameras, smoke detectors, two way talking, emergency response and more. All for a price of $389 for the equipment, $100 for installation and $29 a month for remote monitoring. Best Buy has already trialed the program in two cities and plans on rolling out to more in the near future.
- Medical Alert Systems: This is the classic I've fallen and can't get up technology. Except instead of an individual having to press a button when they fall, technology can now detect a fall and automatically call the monitoring station or emergency service. The best medical alert system offers fall detection, GPS tracking and coverage outside the home through cellular networks.
- Daily Check-In: Some people feel more secure if their loved one is called every day. If the monitoring center can't reach your loved one, a family member or friend will be contacted and can drive over and do a check-up. This service is ideal for people who can't make calls to their loved ones themselves during the day due to work or travel.
- Medication Reminders: Medication compliance and adherence are significant health risks to seniors. Making sure they take the right pills, at the right time, in the right dosage is a challenge. There are several technologies from mobile app reminders to automated medication dispensers that can help (but never guarantee) compliance. Caregivers can then look at the digital log and determine if pills were taken on time and if dosages were adhered to.
- Gas Stove Shut-Off System: Forgetting to turn off the stove is a serious fire hazard, especially for seniors with memory impairment and for those taking any type of sleep medications. Companies like Flowtech and Fire Avert will automatically shut off a gas stove if the smoke, gas or CO2 detector goes off, dramatically reducing the risk of fire.
We know that having quality relationships with friends and family members is a key ingredient to mental health and happiness. We now have more technologies than ever that allow us to stay in touch with our loved ones no matter where we are or what we're doing:
- Facetime: Parents and grandparents love face to face communications. Believe it or not, many seniors can and do take advantage of Facetime and similar apps. Make it a point that if your parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts live alone, that they receive a call at least once a day. This can be done on a rotating basis between siblings and grandchildren. Facetime is also a great opportunity to let your loved ones see one of their grandchildren's sporting events, school plays, family vacations etc...
- Facebook: Older adults love pictures. Set them up on Facebook with notifications and post your family pics online so they can see and be a part of the action.
- Email / Text: Send a joke, or copy your loved one on email joke chains, putting a smile on their face and making them feel part of the group.
Activities of Daily Living
This may be the most challenging of all. There are things we can do to help our loved ones with activities of daily living. Activities of daily living are things like, showering, dressing, eating etc... Here's a few of our favorite ideas, but by no means is it a comprehensive list of the best products for seniors living on their own:
- Soap On A Rope: Not only are slippery bars of soap difficult to handle, especially for the elderly, recovering them from the bathtub floor is a serious risk for falls. You can attach your soap on a rope to the shower head or grab bar, ensuring that even if the bar slips out of your hands, it's easily recoverable.
- One Button Radio: While many of us love the choices we now have to play our favorite music, it's not exactly easy for seniors. The solution is one button radios and MP3 players. With only one button to press, and no channel dial, it's easy to turn on and off. Moreover, pre-programming the MP3 player with your loved ones favorite music can make them feel great!
- Memory Picture Phone: Remembering, finding and dialing phone numbers can all be a challenge for seniors. A memory picture phone places a picture of a person on each oversized button of the dialing pad. All your loved one has to do is press the picture and they'll be called on speed dial presto!
- Reminder Voice Clocks: Reminder voice clocks allow you to program reminder messages at preset times in your own voice. Solutions like Reminder Rosie allow you to program up to 25 reminders which can be turned off with a simple wave of the hand or by saying "reminder off". If not turned off, the reminder keeps repeating itself intermittently for 30 minutes. You can set reminders for taking pills, weekly appointments, anything you can think off.