The number of adults in the US who want to age-in-place is virtually an untapped market. Inventors, entrepreneurs and businesses already in Healthcare and Technology have taken notice.
If you worry about your senior’s safety, chances are you have dipped your toe into researching some type of technology. If you’re confused, you are not alone; the lines between technologies bleed into one another. The category “wearables” run the gamut from a medic alert pendant to a GPS based fall detection watch. Both of these are completely different from special shoe inserts that would tell you when your loved one with dementia is up and moving around. So how do you make sense of all of this?
Let’s talk about some broad categories that focus on caregiver’s concerns.
Finding a way to ensure that your senior takes their medication- and takes it correctly- is one of the most common safety concerns. A well-known medical technology resource for caregivers are medication or pill dispensers. If you don’t live with your senior and are worried that they are not taking their medication, these devices are designed to ensure your caree is compliant. A senior that is getting confused with which pill to take and when can benefit from a pill dispenser. With medication laid out for them and only available at the appropriate time, it minimizes mistakes.
Here is the dilemma: a google search will bring up hundreds of options. Some are timed and will only unlock when it is appropriate, some have voice reminders, while others don’t hold pills at all. Instead, a phone app or an assistive device like Google Home or Amazon Echo will remind you with a voice prompt that it is time to take your medication.
How do you choose the right solution? Here are some of the many considerations. First make sure there is a return policy. Many a family has diligently researched the best product only to discover that the calcium pill doesn’t fit, or it only fits 7 of the 10 pills that are needed. Keep in mind that if more medication is prescribed in the future, or liquid medicine needs to be taken, you may need a different solution. While Alexa, Google Home, Amazon Echo may remind the senior to take the pill that does not mean the senior follows the advice.
As with most technology, human action is still needed. Someone must refill the prescriptions and fill the pill dispenser.
The recurring nightmare for so many family caregivers? That their loved one will fall; lay alone on the floor for hours, unable to get help. It’s a valid concern and often a struggle to get our loved one to see it as a problem. There are two common barriers. First, getting beyond the feeling of “I don’t want to wear a pendant like an old person.” Second, finding a technology solution that doesn’t feel intrusive. Getting a senior to agree to some type of technology that will help in a fall is one of the more sensitive conversations you will engage in.
The most commonly known technology is a wearable pendant, but it can be tainted by the commercial “Help. I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” Today, there are watches that are designed to detect falls that may be more appealing. Both pendants and watches now come with GPS capability which allows them to be used anywhere, not just in the home. The problem with GPS technology is the chance of a false positive – the device thinks you have fallen when in reality you did not.
On the other end of the spectrum are fall detection monitors placed around the home. They run the gamut from cameras to motion sensors, and will tell you when someone is moving from room to room. No activity for a specific amount of time will trigger a warning. This type of technology can be monitored by a company which will alert you and/or an app on your smart phone that you can monitor.
Professional and family caregivers across the board worry that their loved one living with dementia will get out, wander the streets and they won’t know it. There is a wide range of technology from a simple chirper door alarm, a peel and stick device available for about $10.00 from a big box hardware store, to bed alarms that will let you know your loved one has gotten out of bed.
The bottom line is all technology has limitations in terms of life expectancy and they rely on human monitoring and intervention. In the case of a bed alarm, the battery lasts about a year. Without a tickler reminding you to be proactive and replace or recharge batteries before they die, the technology you are relying on will fail and your loved one can be out the door before you know it.
Fraud, Scams and Financial Concerns
The level of fraud and scams perpetrated on our seniors continues to rise. If you are worried that your loved one may unwittingly give away sensitive information, then blocking solicitations may be the answer. You can ban commercial mail solicitations for five years at a time by registering with the mail preference service of the Direct Marketing Associations. Use the Consumer Credit Reporting Industry website, optoutprescreen.com to eliminate unsolicited offers for credit.
You can arrange for limited account oversight by asking your loved one’s financial institution to send statements and alerts to a trusted person who will watch the account for fraud.
If you arrange for someone else to purchase goods and services for your loved one, then a True Link Prepaid Visa Card may be your answer to avoiding financial fraud. True Link allows you to set tight restrictions on spending. You can restrict the amount spent, cash back (even from ATM’s) and block certain goods from purchase (think alcohol). A family member or care manager can see exactly how much was spent and where, offering peace of mind and additional security.
Isolation and Loneliness
Technology is a great way to stay in touch with your senior and keep them up on family activities. It is your senior’s comfort with technology that will determine the best device and application. Someone who is comfortable with a Smartphone or tablet will love Facetime as an avenue to catch up and to watch their grandchild’s dance recital or choir performance if they can’t get out.
Who can help cut through the confusion?
Finding the right technology can be an exhaustive process. One resource that can help cut through the noise is an Aging Life Care Specialist like Annette Murphy, Director of Home Care & Care Management for Springpoint at Home.
“In addition to researching solutions for our client, I have a network of other professionals in New Jersey and across the United States, to reach out to for suggestions. We often discuss our collective experiences with products and companies, serving as a resource for one another.” Annette Murphy.
Note: Springpoint at Home does not endorse any of the technologies, products or websites mentioned in this article. They are included as examples and for information purposes only. Consumers are responsible for conducting their own research before purchase of any products or reliance on any websites or experts. Springpoint at Home does not endorse any experts, their qualifications, recommendations, opinions or advice quoted in this article.