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Use Technology to Help Care for Loved Ones Living Alone

by Richard O'Boyle, Editor

As our parents and grandparents grow older, it can be difficult to make the right decisions regarding their care. Many of us wish to let our elderly relatives live in their own homes until it becomes hard or unsafe for them to be there. It can be stressful when you worry about your loved ones who are still capable of living alone, but show early signs of dementia. It is especially difficult when you don’t live nearby or are unable to visit daily.

There are many types of technology that can make it easy for you to keep in touch with and monitor aging relatives who may need a little extra help. Medical alert necklaces have been around for a few decades, but there are many new technological innovations that you can use. These products and technologies can allow you to give elderly parents and others dignity without compromising their safety.

Skype. If you live out of town, this is a great way to see a relative and gauge how they are doing. You can see if they look healthy and focused or are wearing the same clothes as the previous day and seem out of sorts. You can see how the house looks around them. If your relative is willing to use technology, a laptop with Skype set up to start automatically every time it is turned on is the perfect way to communicate. An added benefit is that it gives grandparents an opportunity to see their grandkids.

Environmental monitoring. Knowing the temperature inside a home can save lives. Every year there are sad stories on the news about individuals living alone with no heat or air conditioning who suffer. A wireless home security system with environmental monitoring can alert you if the temperature rises or falls below safe levels. Flood sensors can also let you know if there is water damage inside a home. Simple buttons can also let users set the alarm without having to remember codes, if needed.

Security system notifications. There are many great features of wireless home security systems that allow you to receive notifications if events occur or don’t occur when they are supposed to. You can use an open/close security sensor on a medicine cabinet or refrigerator door and be alerted in real-time via text or email when the door is opened. This is priceless peace of mind when you can’t be there.

Cell phones. These handy little devices can be used in simple ways for safety. If you know of an older person who lives alone, purchase several pre-paid cell phones, purchase two hours of talk time, program in emergency numbers and your number, and place the phones, on and plugged in, in various locations around the house, such as a basement, attic, garage and laundry room. If a loved one falls and needs assistance, or gets locked out, there is always a phone within reach. If you ever can’t reach a loved one, you can try calling those phone numbers to try to reach them. The benefit is that these phones will work even if the power goes out or the phone line is down.

There are many other creative ways you can use technology to care for and monitor older family members and friends as they begin to need extra support. It can be stressful to worry about how they are doing, especially if you don’t live nearby. The best thing about technology doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated, but it can help everyone stay in contact.