What Joy Loverde Wants You to Know About Technology and Aging Parents


by Joy Loverde

One of the things I love most about modern family caregiving is the use of technology in everyday life. My laptop, cell phone, GPS among other gizmos are my new best friends.  Used to be I couldn’t be in two places at once; but not anymore. Technology allows me to stay in touch even when I’m thousands of miles away.

If you’re like me you may often wonder in the course of the day if your parents are safe and sound.  When Mom doesn’t answer the phone and I know she’s home, my heart skips a beat.  When my absent-minded Uncle Frank tells me he’s making a bowl of soup for lunch, I wonder if he remembers to turn off the stove. Caregiver stress like this I don’t need, and neither do you.

We can take technology to extremes when it comes to family caregiving if we so choose (and many people do). The option of creating a “smart house” makes use of wireless, web-enabled technology to control and monitor the home environment. Regardless of where we are in the world, we can instruct our laptop or cell phone to perform a variety of tasks like turning up the heat in dad’s bedroom, turning lights on and off, and opening and closing the blinds. Technology can play a dominant role in ensuring our aging parents’ safety and security.

Do you have a parent or other elderly loved one who is hard of hearing? Approximately 70 million Americans suffer from varying degrees of hearing loss. If you fear that a traditional fire alarm will not alert them, you can purchase an alarm that broadcasts sounds at multiple frequencies.

Home monitor systems come in all shapes and sizes and costs, and provide family members an opportunity to observe loved ones at home and be alerted to eldercare situations that require immediate attention. Video Cameras and Sensors help family members respond to the person in a timely manner and help avert problematic situations.

For family members, the advantage of the Video Camera option is the opportunity to observe movements and activities and actually witness potentially dangerous situations. Cameras also record the completion of necessary activities like taking medications or eating. And if you are wary of the people hired to care for your parents, you’ll capture their actions on camera. For obvious reasons, the Video Camera option is a tough sell when it comes to aging parents. Big Brother anyone?

Sensor systems, on the other hand are a less intrusive alternative than cameras. Sensors can send an alarm or email to your phone and/or computer and alert you when your aging parent or the home environment needs immediate attention. Let’s say Dad (who has Alzheimer’s) opens the front door and begins to wander outside. You’ll know in an instant that is the case.

And, of course, there’s an “App for that.” Apps for live-feed video surveillance and sensors can be downloaded to your cell phone.

To shop for a variety of products and services, review the resources listed in my book, The Complete Eldercare Planner. You can also type the following keywords into your Internet browser: alarm systems, wandering management systems, home security, home monitoring, home safety, home fire protection, home control systems, and web-based home control. And check out the website of the National Resource Center on Supportive Housing and Home Modification: www.homemods.org

Stay tuned for Part Two for more ideas on technology and family caregiving.