More seniors are choosing to age in place, and caregivers are often attempting to assist them from far away. Thankfully, many solutions are available to ease this long-distance dilemma.
A growing issue. America’s population is aging. In fact, some experts report that 10,000 Americans turn 65 years old every day. USA Today notes that a whopping 90 percent of those Americans want to age in place, and thanks to advances in technology, apps and services, this is more possible than ever before. Here are some of the options available to help make that happen:
Sensors. Discrete sensors are placed throughout the patient’s home and learn daily activity patterns. These devices can be attached in places such as refrigerator doors, toilet seats and medication containers. When the patient deviates from their normal routine, a caregiver, family member or emergency service is notified via text message, email or telephone.
One example of such a system is Alarm.com’s Wellness, which incorporates multiple devices and sensors to collect data and alert caregivers if activity levels change or sleeping or eating habits decline. The system can also report if medications aren’t taken, if there are changes in bathroom habits, if the patient wanders out of normal boundaries, or falls.
Medication dispensers and reminders. Many seniors can forget to take medications, or worse, take doses twice if they can’t recall what they took. These devices assist with keeping seniors on schedule in taking medications, as well as ensuring they take appropriate dosages by reminding, dispensing and managing prescriptions.
E-pill’s MedTime Station is programmable to flash a light and sound an alarm when it’s time for medicine. Trays within the appliance rotate to keep seniors on track. The device is designed with elderly patients in mind and for those with physical limitations to be able to operate the device. Users pull a blue lever to release pills into a cup, and the alarm stops automatically.
E-pill also offers the MedSmart Plus device. This tool includes added features such as easier-to-manage rubber grips, larger pill compartments, an AC-powered docking station, and the option to send notifications to caregivers regarding medication dosages.
Video interaction. Many caregivers are opting to incorporate video chat into their routines. Using phone apps such as FaceTime or websites like Skype allows loved ones to see the patient’s condition as well as monitor health and the upkeep of the home. Caregivers share meals and the adventures of grandchildren over the internet, all while keeping tabs on the patient. Devices can be anything with a webcam and range from smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers.
Some tablets are specially designed for seniors, such as the GrandPad. The interface is easier to navigate for less tech-savvy patients, but allows users to communicate with family, share photos, check the weather, listen to music and play games.
Senior move managers. Seniors often opt to downsize in their golden years. A smaller and more manageable home can be safer and simpler. Long-distance caregivers can navigate this transition with the assistance of senior move managers. The Chicago Tribune explains that these professionals assist with all aspects of downsizing, organizing and moving.
It’s important to note that the process of downsizing can be extremely emotional for older adults, and helpers should be sensitive to the situation. Seniors will typically be sorting through belongings with sentimental attachment and eliminating what isn’t completely needed in order to accommodate a smaller space. Items will be organized into throw-away, sell and donate-to-charity piles, and items to be given to family will be set aside for safekeeping. Seeing a life dismantled in this manner can bring on waves of emotion; even when downsizing is the patient’s choice, the situation requires handling with respect and caring.
Long-distance support solutions. Thanks to developments in technology and services, long-distance caregiving is getting easier. Patients can be supported with devices such as sensors and medication reminders, and video outreach keeps caregivers in touch. When downsizing is required, senior move managers can help facilitate the move. Thanks to these innovations, caregiving from afar is getting more manageable.