Maintaining Your Relationship with Aging Parents from Afar
If you don’t live near your parents and they are aging, you may have suspicions about their ability to live independently, but it can be hard to gauge their needs from far away. Thankfully, with technological advancements, you don’t have to wait until your visits to evaluate your parents’ ability to live independently or to help them remain safe at home.
As a long-distance caregiver, you’ll need to use your visits to set up their home for independent living, but once you’ve done the legwork, they should be set. As technology advances, there will be so many uses for the aging population to continue living independently as long as possible.
Home Technology for Seniors
- Home Security Cameras: There are a number of uses for home security cameras, from monitoring break-ins to checking in on an aging parent’s comings and goings. Many of the new systems can be viewed from your smart phone and can send you alerts. While it may seem big brother-y, it can be useful to monitor your parents’ home since many break-ins are done by people posing to be service providers.
- Amazon Echo: The Amazon Echo can be really useful if your parent isn’t very tech savvy once you’ve set it up. You can put medication reminders in their calendar and have the Echo remind them to take medication. They can also turn lights on in a different room if you have the proper setup or close their garage door. They can even order groceries through Amazon.
- Video Chats: Whether you use Skype, FaceTime or Google Hangouts, having a video chat with your parent will allow you to actually see how they’re doing. Your parents are smart. They probably hide new physical or cognitive changes from you by keeping phone calls short or sticking to safe topics. As they say, a picture tells a thousand words. You will be able to see new bruises that might indicate a recent fall or evidence of an unkempt house (if they normally were neat-freaks).
I had a client who hired us to drive his grandmother to the doctor because she took a fall. He lived in Arizona, she was in Los Angeles. She told him it was just a small tumble, she was fine. When I picked her up, she had a black eye and significant bruising on her forehead and nose. She also was walking with a limp. He had no idea because they only spoke over the phone. Had they had a video chat, he would have seen it.
- BeClose: I just discovered this in my research for this post. BeClose uses wireless sensors placed in the home to track your loved one’s daily routine. If there are disruptions to the routine, you will be alerted. This feels a bit big brother-y, however, I can appreciate the need for it when you have an aging relative who doesn’t want to move closer to family, or leave their home.
- Medical Alert System: There are a number of medical alert systems available. I can’t express enough how valuable they are for seniors who live alone. No matter what their physical ability is, anyone can take a tumble.
I had a client who was very physically capable fall because the rubber on her slippers caught on her wood floor and she hit her head. If she wasn’t wearing her medical alert bracelet, she would not have been able to get up to dial 911. Instead, she stayed where she was and pushed the button. The fire department was at her home in minutes and took her to the ER. She had a concussion. By contrast, I had a client who didn’t like to use her medical alert system. She fell on her way back from the bathroom in the middle of the night and broke her hip. She wasn’t found until the next morning when her caregiver arrived to help her get dressed.
Being a long-distance caregiver doesn’t mean you can’t help your parent age in place safely. With all the new technology available, it can become easier to stay at home as long as possible.