Technology can increase quality of life and independence.
Let’s face it, finding the right technology solution for an aging loved one is often confusing and overwhelming. Whether you are worried about medications being taken correctly or are concerned about a fall, simply googling these topics can turn up 100’s of products to evaluate.
Then there is the problem of getting your senior to green light the technology. Although many own Smartphones and tablets, they may not be using them due to frustration caused by sight limitations or a lack of comfort with the technology. For some, the cost of a data plan and WiFi may be more than they want to incur. For others, privacy and control over their personal data are the barriers.
If your approach to the technology conversation is safety alone, it may be an uphill battle. But if you approach the conversation based on increased quality of life and maintaining independence, it is a very different conversation. One small win opens the door to other wins, which can focus on the biggest concern of family caregivers – safety.
A perfect example of keeping independence while addressing safety concerns can be addressed with assistive technologies like Alexa or Google Home. If mobility is an issue, a smart plug attached to a lamp allows your senior to turn a lamp on or off with a simple voice command. Then there are smart thermostats which allow them to control temperature by voice command as well.
If your senior is frustrated by technology, the company Speak2 will set up and manage their Alexa system, working with them to determine what your loved one wants and needs. Skills training is included in the Speak2 monthly fee. A service like this can be a godsend if you live a distance from your loved one.
One universal truth about our seniors is that they have bedrock opinions on how they want to live their lives and that includes the use of technology. Don’t be too quick to discount their reasons why a certain technology will not work for them. Listen, dig deeper and you often find they have good reasons. For instance, they may feel using Alexa for phone conversations means a loss of privacy.
I know my mother was resisted to assistive technology at first. But once we installed smart plugs on the lamps in the living room, her interest in Alexa peaked. Now each day when we talk, she tells me how Alexa greeted her when she asked about the day’s weather.
Listen for personal boundaries and respect them. In doing so, when falls become a concern, you can bypass suggesting a medic alert pendent and go right to a watch that detects falls and has GPS so it can be used when they are outside the home.
Listen for motivation for change. If you notice or they mention they forgot to take dinner pills twice this week, then it’s time to introduce a medication management system. Don’t be surprised if you need to re-introduce the topic at a different time, in a different way, more than once, to get to a yes.
It’s one thing to purchase a medication management system because you are sold on the technology. It’s another to make them part of the solution research and discussion. In doing so, you have a better chance of buying a pill dispenser that will hold ALL their pills, will fit the large calcium pill and allows arthritic fingers to easily get the pills out. Another tip – check out the return policy before you purchase, especially if you are buying online.
Of course, safety and the use of technology is impacted if your loved one is a person living with dementia. Making them part of the conversation may not be possible. But solutions that keep them safe should still be ones that keep their dignity intact. If you are concerned about wandering, Smart Sole from Health Trends makes a GPS-based shoe insert that can be added by a podiatrist as part of their visit.
Keep in mind that all technology relies on monitoring and intervention. The smart plug will get confused if someone accidentally turns the light on or off the old fashioned way. Prescriptions still need to be refilled and the pill dispenser loaded. The battery in a timed medication management system may need to be replaced. Without human intervention, technology will fail and your senior’s safety is at risk.
Disclaimer: The material in this blog is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace, nor does it replace, consulting with a physician, lawyer, accountant, financial planner or other qualified professional.