Technology: Making Care At Home Possible

With the daily changes (or so it seems) in technology and advances in products, one would hope that these changes can have a positive effect on the home caregiving environment. As working caregivers, devices and services that can assist in making your job more efficient and less complicated are usually welcomed with open arms. Even the simplest machine such as the microwave can take an evening laden with caregiving responsibilities such as making your loved one dinner, bathing, laundry, etc. just a little bit easier. Let’s explore some of these technologies in this article in an attempt to keep up to date.

Personal Emergency Response Systems

As a working caregiver, this tool can be essential to you and your loved one’s caregiving needs. This tool is often used to place caregivers’ minds at ease during working hours when you must leave your loved one for a period of time, or even for an added sense of protection and response for the individual in need of care. These systems usually involve the older adult wearing a button around their neck or wrist. This button is then connected to a box that is plugged in to the telephone line. When the button is pushed the “call center” will be contacted. In most cases, they will attempt to speak with the individual through the box (in a speaker phone fashion) to initially assess the situation. From that point, a list of contacts may be called to check on the older adult. Or in case of an emergency the local ambulance, fire and police would be contacted.

The newest development with this technology is the buttons ability to “sense” a fall and make the call even if the button is not physically pushed. This development makes this resource available to a greater population of older adults. Many older adults with memory loss and their caregivers have not utilized this technology in the past because they would need to trust that the older adult would remember to push the button in a fall or an emergency. In addition, if a fall is so severe that the individual has gone unconscious, help can still be notified.

Medication Reminders

Devices have evolved from a simple medication box that can be filled weekly. And if you are a family member who calls daily to remind a loved one to take their medicines, these developments may be just the ticket. Older adults can wear watches or pagers that are able to be programmed with timers that include which specific medication should be taken. Even more advanced are alarms that look like an alarm clock with audible reminders. Computer software systems are also available for those caregivers who are computer savvy and can take time to manage. Finally, actual pill dispensers can be programmed to dispense only medication that is to be taken at that specific time. The pill dispenser is the most expensive of all the options discussed. For only one specific pill, the newest technology that has been developed is a cap on the bottle that glows when you are to take it.

GPS Shoes

If you are caring for a loved one with memory loss, Alzheimer’s or other dementias, wandering may be one of the biggest concerns when caring for this individual at home. Two companies, GTX Corp and Aetrex, are the first to make a shoe that has a GPS tracking device embedded in the shoe. There are sneaker and loafer styles and the individual wearing them can be monitored through your computer, mobile phone and Google maps. Boundaries can also be set so that notification can be provided if the individual wearing the shoes passes that boundary.

By taking advantage of new technologies, it can ease some of the stress of caregiving and you can feel that your loved one is safe even when you are not physically there.

For additional information about concerns related to your older relative, contact your Eldercare Information & Referral Program at 1-800-253-9236.

Written by

Laura Enslen has a bachelor’s degree from Elizabethtown College in social work and a masters degree in social work from the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice. Laura is a licensed social worker and has experience providing care to older adults in their homes through her work as a hospice social worker in Baltimore, MD. She has helped clients and families cope with long term planning concerns, a new terminal diagnosis, and caregiving issues. Prior to her hospice experience, Laura worked in the hospital setting in Philadelphia, PA and Baltimore, MD where she helped patients and families navigate the labyrinth of health care services and plan for discharge from the hospital. Laura is also trained in guiding clients through relaxation with breathing techniques and guided imagery.

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