Nearly 1 in 4 U.S. adults has provided care to a person with a long-term illness, disability, or aged family member in the past 30 days. While caring for aging parents can bring you closer together, it can also be a source of stress. Caring for loved ones can be challenging due to distance, job and family responsibilities. But there is help.
Smart home technology, wearable alert systems, telehealth, and mobile apps make it easier than ever before to monitor your aging parents and their medical needs when you can’t be with them.
Health and Home Safety Alert Systems to monitor aging parents
Health Alert Systems
Many seniors have conditions that increase their chance of having a medical emergency. Older adults also have a higher risk of falling. For medical assistance that can be critical in an emergency situation, there is a single-press alert device that can be worn as a pendant, on the wrist like a watch or as a clip on a belt. If the alert button is pressed, it will send an automatic call to a switchboard, where a person will assess the situation and either call 911 or call the designated person to help.
The alert system uses either a landline or cellular phone. If the system uses a landline with a home base device, the single press alert button will send the alert to a limited area of 400 to 1,000 square feet from the home base device. If the system uses a cellular phone with GPS capability, the single press alert button can be sent from anywhere for seniors that travel away from their homes.
When choosing an alert system, consider the monthly fees, quality of technology, how mobile the senior is (homebound or able to travel away from home) and contract details. Pick a company that does not require long-term contracts and fits the mobility of the senior. Costs range from $20 to $50 per month for monitoring.
Home safety systems
Home security monitoring systems can help ensure the safety of your elderly parent. Most security systems have sensors that detect when a door is opened. Others allow you to control lights, temperature, locks, motion, windows and smoke detectors. Seniors with mild dementia might forget to close a door or window, which can make them vulnerable.
A home security system can notify a family member, caregiver or a neighbour to check on the problem. The average cost for installation and set-up ranges from $600 to $1,200. Monthly monitoring plans average around $30 but can range from $15 to $100 a month.
Health and Medication Management to monitor aging parents
Personal health records
Another important task is keeping track of your parent’s health records. This includes a list of physicians, conditions, medications, allergies, shots, blood type and exams, tests or screenings. Consider organizing a personal health record with all the information in one place and allowing multiple family members to have access to it.
Some apps can import health data from physician offices or government sites, such as Medicare and TRICARE. Personal health record apps include Apple Health (free), MyChart (free), IBlueButton ($14.99) or My Medical ($4.99).
The Walgreens app (free) provides medication management. A senior can allow family or caregivers access to their medication list. Caregivers can see when medication updates are made after a doctor visit. The Walgreens app offers pill reminders. It also makes medication refills easy, offering refill by scan, automatic refills or refills online. This can keep elderly parents from running out of their medication.
Digital medication organizers can also help your parents stay on track with their medications. Less expensive options are around $20 to $100 and can hold one to four weeks of medication, alarming when the medication is to be taken. Some even lock a compartment if a dose is missed, so the next doses do not get mixed up.
For more complicated medication regimes, there are automatic pill dispensers which cost approximately $2,000 and can hold a 90-day supply of up to 15 medications. They sound an alarm when the medication is due and dispense the appropriate medications with the push of a button. They allow multiple caregivers access to the dispenser, provide notifications to caregivers when medications are taken or not taken, and can provide medication adherence reports that can be reviewed by family or healthcare providers.
Telehealth Services to monitor aging parents
Traveling to see doctors and to get healthcare can be a big ordeal for seniors. The great thing is that telehealth and telemedicine doctor visits are becoming more prevalent, so your parents can make use of increasingly available telehealth services. Most health insurance plans now include free or low-cost coverage for urgent care telemedicine visits right from the home via companies such as Teladoc, MDLIVE, and LiveHealth Online (by American Well).
In addition, more health practitioners and clinics are including telemedicine as part of their services, so be sure to ask your parents’ regular healthcare givers if and when they can offer telemedicine visits. There are also a growing number of diabetes, chronic disease and wellness programs such as Virta, Fruitstreet, Health2Sync that allow seniors to track wellness goals and get telemedicine visits with a dietitian, wellness coach, or even a physician.
Do you need help organizing a caregiving schedule for family, friends, volunteers and care aides? Some apps use an interactive calendar to help you with things like keeping track of who will take your parent to their next doctor appointment and who will pick up the groceries for the week. These apps may also include a message board for encouragement or information for the parent or caregivers.
Other apps, in addition to the centralized calendar, help users to create customizable care plans, make personalized to-do lists, provide for document storage, keep a list of medications and have a wellness journal. Some examples are Lotsa Helping Hands, Caring Village, eCare21 and CareZone apps.
Caring for an aging parent can be as stressful as it is rewarding. Thankfully, there are many ways that technology can help you stay on top of your parent’s health and safety. From health alert systems that call for medical help in an emergency to digital medication organizers that allow you to see if your parents are taking their medications, there are a host of options that can give you peace of mind.
This is a guest post by Jean Cherry. Jean Cherry holds a BSN, WCC, MBA and is a writer for the content team at Walgreens, where you can find assistive devices for seniors like mobility scooters. She has been a home health nurse and enjoys technology innovation, especially when it helps elderly stay connected with their family and live independently at home longer.
Although it is intended to be accurate, neither Walgreen Co., its subsidiaries or affiliates, nor any other party assumes for loss or damage due to reliance on this material. Walgreens does not recommend or endorse any products, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned in the article. Reliance on any information provided by this article is solely at your own risk.