There will come a time for everyone with an aging parent that the question will arise, “Is it still safe for mom (or dad) to live alone?” And then there will be the checklist to be certain the solution to your older parent’s solitary risk is feasible:
- Is the caregiver I hire trustworthy?
- Is the caregiver I hire affordable?
- Is the caregiver I hire someone whom mom or dad will like?
- Is the caregiver I hire vaxed and healthy?
- Is the caregiver I hire willing to work overnight or weekend shifts?
Your own list may grow even longer as you sort through your prospects owing to your parent’s medical status, challenging personality or isolated geography. But technology may be central to your solution on virtually all counts. We’ve all seen the ads for the portable device that accepts that call of “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” But for the majority of incidental needs for the older loved one living alone, being able to summon a first responder may not be the only solution they need. But Alexa may be…or technology with attributes like those ever-present audio monitors a lot of folks use to play their favorite music or to turn down the room temperature or draw the curtains and more.
A company called SmartCompanion is taking responsive monitoring to the next level. Set-up in your loved one’s home is actually quite inexpensive – $250 – and includes battery backup and a video screen. Small two-way speakers can be placed strategically throughout the home, and some companies also offer robotic dogs, cats and even birds to stand in for just a piece of tech. The devices can be programmed to offer a veritable menu of outbound calls including which family members as well as first responders. The tech companies that provide these techno-companions are riveted on making them more responsive to a host of unique needs for the hearing-impaired, those with poor eyesight and more.
Besides their affordable responsiveness, these technologies are also addressing the larger demographic shift which forecasts a substantial labor shortage of caregivers as the percentage of 65+ year-olds begins to dwarf the available labor force. And your mom or dad’s “Tech Friday” can be programmed to not just respond to urgent or mundane requests, they can be programmed with daily or weekly or longer calendar reminders for pill regimens, medical appointments or family events. From what I’ve seen, these new technological companions may outgrow their intended target market of older and isolated individuals and eventually insinuate themselves into everyone’s households like the George Jetson’s family tech support. “Jane, stop this crazy thing!”
Charlotte Bishop is a Caregiver Coach, an Aging Life Care Advisor, a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.