Worried about your parents aging & living at home? Let technology help you.

Updated: Nov 14, 2018

Maybe you do, but are they safe? Happy? In our busy world, we can’t always check in on family members as often as we’d like to. What technologies can we use to help make caregiving a little easier? There are quite a few things—some may even help your lifestyle!

Safety Solutions

Home Safety

  • Sensors Galore!

  • Door- and floor-mounted sensors monitor typical movements and can alert you to anything out of the ordinary.

  • Sensors can determine if windows and doors are locked.

  • Sensors can monitor other home functions, like smoke detectors or water leaks.

  • Stove sensors can indicate if the stove is on or off, and even turn it off if left unattended for too long.

  • Remote Surveillance & Alarm Systems: These ensure the home stays secure and can be coupled with motion-activated outdoor lighting.

Health Safety

You may be familiar with personal alert systems like “Life Alert.” Who hasn’t heard, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!,” but the new wearables market of has transformed simple alert pendants into something far more advanced:

  • Smart Watches: More stylish options reduce the stigma and include advanced features like health tracking. Many smart watch options can also track activity and heart rate; however, these can be expensive.

  • Fall Sensors: Fall sensors can identify a fall and notify someone automatically. Some socks can monitor gait and provide recommendations to stop falls.

  • Wellness Check ins: Instead of dispatching help right away, some products, like LifePod, “check in” with wearers on a regular basis.

  • Activity Alerts: Activity alerts use safety sensors in doors and floors to alert you when a loved one isn’t as active as perhaps they should be.

  • Location Trackers: If a loved one has Alzheimer’s and is prone to wandering, this solution can help locate and even guide them home. Some are available as inserts into the sole of a shoe.

  • Medication Reminders: There are several options to remind users to take the right medications. A simple one might use a home voice system reminder, like Alexa or Google Home. An advanced “Medminder” will only release the right pill at the right time. It sends an alert to caregivers if the medicine is not taken.

  • Answering Medical Questions: Mobihealth solutions now enable online consultations, which can serve as touchpoints in addition to you or the normal health care provider, but with more access.

Solutions that Make Life Easier

Many services can help ease a variety of aspects of daily living. Adding some of these assistive technologies to our parents’ lives can have a great benefit.

Ease at Home

  • Everything is “smart”!

  • Smart lights activate automatically, or on voice control.

  • Smart doorbells show who is outside, to ensure they belong. Some even offer remote entry.

  • Smart digital thermostats make the home more comfortable on a custom schedule.

  • Smart remotes allow users to speak to navigate TV and other device menus with ease.

Ease of Lifestyle

  • Food delivery: If grocery shopping is a hassle, have the groceries delivered with a service like Peapod . Smart fridges allow users to order items directly from the fridge door, and Amazon buttons make reordering basics a breeze. If this is not possible, consider community food programs that bring prepared meals to those who need them.

  • Cooking: Not the best cook? Amp up cooking skills and recipes by ordering high quality, balanced meals through services such as Blue Apron or Hello Fresh. These meal kits allow users to prepare their own meals while also providing inspiration and all the needed ingredients. These services make it possible for people to keeping cooking for themselves longer.

  • Household tasks: Need help changing a lightbulb? Phone-based apps like Task Rabbit and websites such as Angie’s List are great resources for finding home maintenance help.

  • Cleaning: Hire cleaners easily online, or get a robot. There are now robots advanced enough to handling vacuuming, lawn-mowing even mopping! Check out iRobot’s Roomba, for example.

  • Simplifying everyday tasks: Take a few minutes to look at the world through your parents’ eyes. Does their phone have speed dial? Could their TV remote be less complicated? Might a home assistant device serve as a good back-up reminder for appointments and other tasks?

Mobility Solutions

Is Mom at the point where her eyesight doesn’t really allow her to drive safely? Having a discussion about driving is a lot easier today than it once was, because giving up driving does not necessarily mean someone must sit at home doing nothing.

  • Rideshare services make it easier than ever to order a car. Try Uber or Lyft. It’s a great relief to know these services are available when you can’t leave work early to take a parent to a doctor’s appointment or help with other errands. These services make easier than ever to get out of the house.

  • Perhaps your parent finds mobility extremely challenging. There are many ways to make a home more accessible with technology. You might consider installing automated doors, or wall cabinets that can be lowered to give access to the top shelf.

What about loneliness?

Being social and connected is extremely important to happiness as we age; it also can improve general health. From being a button away from speaking to the grandkids to socializing with friends, technology broadens the opportunities to make your parents feel less isolated.

Many home applications come with built-in connectivity. They can allow you to share a simple moment with the touch of a button, via video, audio, or both.

There are also applications that facilitate the tracking and sharing of all kinds of information. If you are coordinating care across the board, you might want to use an app like Carezone or Livpact to share contacts, medication information, to-do lists, and appointment calendars in one place.

Would you like more tech? Maybe way more?

Are you interested in taking your use of tech even further? There are a few interesting, cutting-edge ideas to consider that come close to the promise of “Rosie the Robot” from The Jetsons.

  • Virtual reality (VR) can be useful for people who can’t get out much anymore. VR researchers have shown the ability for VR users to to “explore” places they can no longer access physically. These VR visits have been shown to improve moods.

  • Virtual companions or assistants

  • Eldercare systems for people with mild cognitive impairments, like Carecoach, allows a human-powered avatar in shape of an animal to watch over a homebound person.

  • Robotic companions can interact with people, like Elliq, a robot that suggests music, recommends taking walks, and keeps on top of appointments. You might also consider getting a robot dog, like Miro, to keep your parent company without the care needs associated with traditional pets. What if there’s an emergency and your parent needs assistance? These robotic companions can call for help and then notify those helping of a person’s particular medications and ailments.

What if your parents aren’t tech-savvy?

Are your parents tech-savvy? While an increasing number of people are familiar with smartphones, maybe the large, simple Jitterbug phone would work better for your parents. What about a GrandPad? Simpler than the iPad, a GrandPad is a tablet designed for easy, senior-adapted experiences.

If you prefer all-in-one solution, many devices can bundle several features into one connective suite. Check out GrandCaresystem’s touchscreen device, which has telehealth, messaging, news, video conferencing, and other functions.

Impressive? Definitely. The technology landscape changes and develops more quickly by the year, and it is quickly evolving caregivers’ responsibilities and improving the ease of aging in place. These new developments could prove to be viable challenges to the ever-increasing costs of long-term care, possibly making daily living more manageable at a lower cost.

Employ technology to make your, and your parents’, life easier. You might as well learn this now; after all, you’ll be needing it soon, too!

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