By Marla Beck
Have you ever had to call tech support for your computer or cable service? Although frustration is generally what lands us there, the people on the other end of the line usually know how to help and walk us through the problem and on to a solution.
I’ve often thought that there should be tech support for major life events, too. Imagine tech support for raising teenagers, tech support for changing careers, tech support for help with elderly family members — you get the idea!
I’d like to think of this month’s column as tech support for caregiving and would like to share a few of the best gadgets and gizmos that can solve some common problems and make caregiving for aging loved ones a little easier.
Mobility Aids for Elders
A most common problem the elderly face is one nearly impossible to avoid: difficultly moving from a sitting position to a standing position and vice versa.
There are some devices that can help, starting with the use of a cushion. By raising the center of gravity, a cushion helps those with hip problems and other mobility restrictions get the leverage they need to stand. Bed rails and chair handlebars are also helpful.
For more assistance, try a power-lift seat or a lift chair that mechanically pushes a person out of the chair and into a standing position.
Along the same lines: a swivel cushion, which makes any hard chair into a swivel chair, will make it much easier to get out of a chair. For seniors, swivel cushions can also be used to ease the process of getting in and out of a car.
Monitoring Technology for Caregivers
More and more commercial senior care communities offer high-tech monitoring systems for their residents. These systems are also available for private homes and can be especially helpful for extending the time dementia patients can safely remain in the home.
Some systems may include video monitoring, but many use less invasive, passive monitoring that employs motion sensors to track activity. The system records activity statistics on-line where remote caregivers or family members can log in and view this information. Some can track seniors’ use of bathrooms, beds, chairs and doors, and alert caregivers (via text message or phone) when activities are out of the ordinary or even if there is a lack of activity.
These services can provide a smart-home option that allows you to remotely turn lights on and off, lock and unlock doors, and send messages. Also available are appliance monitors like stove alarms and automated shut-offs. Check www.grandcare.com or www.liveathometechnologies.com for more information.
Med Cottages, also known as “granny pods,” take monitoring one step further (www.medcottage.com). These are tiny homes designed to fit in the backyard that can be equipped with padded floors and even a toilet that weighs the elderly or disabled resident and does a urinalysis.
Another useful product great for caregivers or those who care for senior family members is a pair of shoes that includes a GPS tracking device in the sole. If the person wearing them wanders outside an established area, an alert is sent to your Smartphone and computer. This may be particularly attractive if you are caring for an Alzheimer’s patient. Visit www.gpsshoe.comfor more information. Click here for information about Andelcare’s Alzheimer’s and Dementia homecare services.
Other Devices that Help Seniors and Caregivers
For seniors with complicated medication schedules, help is available through devices that will dispense medications automatically. Some of them will also make automated phone calls if, for example, the medication is still in the tray 90 minutes after the dosage is due or if there are only a few doses left.
For seniors who live alone, a touchscreen computer such as that offered by www.telikin.com can become a tool for staying in touch with friends and family. These have simplified, interactive screens and limited capacities but may be good for elderly “non-computer” people.
Some of this technology may seem like big brother at work, but when used as intended, it can provide peace of mind and safety when caring for elderly loved ones.
Technology is all around us, so why not use it to make caregiving and the life of your loved one easier? But remember: Nothing replaces personal visits and the personal touch.
MARLA BECK is the founder and president of Andelcare Inc., which provides in-home eldercare. Beck was recognized by the U. S. Small Business Administration as Washington’s 2012 Small Business Person of the Year. Submit questions by calling (206) 838-1844 or via the Andelcare website’s contact form.
The original version of this article was published April 21, 2013 in City Living Seattle. This article is reprinted by permission of Pacific Publishing Co. ©2013