Caregiving is an impossible task at the best of times. But with the pandemic raging on, the worries of remote parenting have been exacerbated significantly.
Elders with memory disorders like Dementia or Alzheimer’s are at particular risk as these diseases make independent living much harder. For example, patients with dementia have a battery of medication that they are expected to take without fail. The disease itself, however causes confusion and loss of cognitive thinking which affects elders’ ability to take medication on time and in correct doses. In addition, elders may forget to close the front door after a walk, wander off in a state of uncertainty or in more serious cases leave the stove on after cooking.
Unless, you can afford round the clock help, technology is your best bet for tackling these issues. If you are a caregiver who doesn’t live with their parents, there are a variety of tech products that can provide pretty full proof assistance. You can even install a combination of different products for more peace of mind. Below we’ve listed some common problems faced by elders and solutions available in technology. The focus is on issues related to medication management but we have also sought to cover other issues like telling time, getting lost or carrying out household chores.
Home monitoring devices use sensors and other aids like cameras to alert caregivers of any issue. They can also be used to remotely switch lights on and off, monitor thermostat and send alerts via smart phone. Monitoring devices are great at tackling one of the biggest issues facing elders with dementia which is medicine intake. Sensors can be used to alert caregivers if certain areas or cabinets like the medicine cabinet have been not accessed all day or used more than usual. Accordingly, caregivers can do a personal check to ensure the medications have been consumed on time and in correct doses.
An elderly monitoring camera is another commonly used measure that many caregivers use to watch over their seniors. Monitoring cameras come with a variety of features such as wide lenses, night infrared technology, zoom in function and two-way communication. Cameras can be trained on certain areas like the medication cupboard or bathroom to track intake of medication or fall in the bathroom respectively. And some cameras even monitor movement and will alert in case no movement has been detected for a set period of time in a particular room. This combination of features may make them a full proof solution. However, for seniors seeking privacy and independence, cameras in private areas of the home like bathroom and bedroom can feel intrusive.
Medical alert systems like Life Alert have been around for a long time. All medical alert systems work on the same basic technology. They use GPS monitoring and location tracking to provide emergency assistance in case of a senior wandering off, falling or otherwise in trouble. With the use of a help button, an immediate alarm is sent to a 24 hour call center which will then track the location to provide real time assistance.
However, medical alert systems like Life Alert come with certain limitations. Life Alert, for example does not have a fall detection feature. Other medical alert systems that do have this functionality still do not provide a holistic view of your elder's activities and remote monitoring. They do not for example provide useful data regarding medication intake.
Seniors whether they suffer from chronic diseases or not have to consume a battery of medications. Recalling when to take medication and how much can be a pain and especially harder for patients suffering from memory disorders like dementia.
A medication management technology comes in different forms. Some use sensors like SentryTell’s Open Close sensor that can be placed on a medicine cabinet and provide instant alert for unusual events like medicine cabinet not being opened all day. Or alternatively, alert in case the medication cabinet has been opened more times than usual. Others come in the form of automated pill dispensers which beep to remind caregivers and patients that medication has to be taken.
For dementia patients who steadily lose their cognitive abilities, assistive technology that reminds them of critical tasks like medication use is a godsend. And for caregivers, technology solutions like these help detect patterns or issues for long term care and course corrections.
Memory loss, confusion and decreased mobility are some of the side effects of aging and diseases like dementia. Picture phones are specifically designed to help elders with issues like these. They come with pre programmed large numbers and photos that can be placed on clear buttons to call a loved one quickly. The patient might get confused with digits but can use the photo to recall who to call and just click the appropriate photo when needed. This ensures they have a recourse in case of an emergency when seeking help is absolutely essential.
Reminder messages are a simple and easy to use technology solution for caregivers and elders alike. Reminder can be used to notify seniors to take medication on time, shut the front door or stove or get out of bed. These messages can be pre recorded and played at a set time. Some devices are configured and designed to play messages based on a person’s activity. For example, it will play a message when a dementia patient is leaving the home and warn them to lock the front door. They can also include messages to calm an anxious patient late at night or remind them of an upcoming doctor’s appointment.
One of the most common symptoms of dementia is confusion. The confusion may manifest itself in different ways such as difficulty ascertaining time of day or distinguishing between day and night. The resultant anxiety can be traumatic for both patients and caregivers. A perfect solution for such issues is using easy to read clocks that are designed keeping dementia patients in mind. These clocks use a combination of bright bold graphics and oversized text for easy processing of time. Some clocks only indicate whether it is morning, afternoon, evening or night and others may display the exact time of the day.
Dementia patients suffering from confusion and cognitive issues may leave the stove, light or TV on. This may cause serious issues, especially in the case of leaving a fire hazard like oven or stove on for longer than desired. This developing piece of technology is designed specifically to monitor use of electrical appliances and prevent disasters like fire. By plugging the device into a power strip or wall outlet, it can be used to alert caregivers about appliances use and any other cause of concern.
Dementia patients are at risk of getting lost and wandering off without recourse to find their way back. One of the major symptoms of dementia in fact is, difficulty with coordination and motor issues. Coupled with difficulty with visual and spatial abilities, the chances of seniors with dementia losing their bearings is very high.
Location tracking devices which can be worn anywhere on the body-as a piece of jewelry, inside shoe soles or as a watch use GPS to track location. The alert systems that are part of the location devices will then inform caregivers if their seniors have wandered off into an unidentified area. And in addition, alert emergency personnel to ensure safe return, if the caregivers can’t reach the spot themselves.
This technology is still in the development stage with prototypes available for sale. In essence, it serves to replace the job of a caregiver by taking care of household tasks. Home care robots can help dementia and Alzheimer's patients with mobility issues complete housework efficiently. And in some case also remind elders to take medication or alert medical professionals in case of crisis. One of the symptoms of dementia is difficulty handling complex tasks. A robot that does the task instead can relieve much of the associated anxiety for patients and caregivers,
Sensor Technology is the answer to many issues with the solutions listed above. While the above listed elderly monitoring technology solutions are effective, they do not provide a full proof or complete picture of the elder being monitored. Installing cleverly designed sensors around your home will give you access to a wide variety of information regarding your senior and even alert you to patterns or trends in activities. The best part unlike room monitors, cameras and GPS trackers, they put the senior's privacy at the forefront. Nobody likes to feel like that they are being watched and much less that they are an inconvenience.
Sentry Tell is one of the best Life alert alternatives available in the market. Unlike other monitoring systems for elderly in the home like the elderly monitoring camera which can be intrusive, Sentry Tell activity based sensor system protects the privacy of the senior. Through the use of non-invasive sensors placed around the house, on doors, beds and medicine cabinets, the caregiver can easily track their elders’ activity.
These elderly monitoring sensors in essence act as room monitors for elderly. Poor eyesight, safety hazards at home and decreased mobility all contribute to an increase risk of a fall, medication not being taken and other issues like getting lost. The system uses an app to inform caregivers of unusual movement or activity in the senior's home. It uses a patented technology that establishes normal activity over a period of time. And can be configured to raise alarm in case the activity is a percentage over or under a set limit.
SentryTell provides a whole suite of technology solutions. We've already mentioned the SentryTell Open/Close sensors that can help in medication management. In addition, there are temp sensors to regulate temperature inside senior's home, smoke detectors and motion sensors.
Technology can be a huge source of comfort for busy caregivers with multiple responsibilities. The best monitoring systems are unobtrusive, flexible, easy to use and provide multiple functionalities. Before choosing any monitoring system, make sure to include the elder in the conversation. A monitoring system should not just provide peace of mind to the caregivers but also the seniors themselves. So, choose one that places their privacy and comfort at the forefront.