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Claire Wentz is the author of the upcoming book Caring From Afar: A Comprehensive Guide for Long Distance Senior Caregivers. For more information, go to her website.
When you have a senior parent who lives in another state, taking care of her can be especially difficult. But there are ways to stay in touch and keep a watchful eye over your elderly loved one with the help of technology.
According to Redfin, there are five main options for downsizing seniors: buying a smaller house or condo, renting a smaller home, moving in with a loved one, moving into a retirement community, and entering assisted living. If you’re considering putting your elderly parent or grandparent into more permanent care, here is a little more about those options:
Assisted living is an apartment-style facility in which seniors can live mostly independently but they might require help with daily living tasks, such as cooking, dressing themselves or taking their medication. They might also require help with transportation. Assisted living facilities provide these services.
Skilled nursing facilities are more like what traditionally were called nursing homes. They are for people who need around-the-clock care, and they may be temporary for rehabilitation or for long-term care.
Memory care can be in an assisted living facility or in a facility with more intensive nursing care. Memory care units are designed specifically for people with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or other memory conditions.
If your loved one is aging in place, an amazing amount of new tech gadgets is likely to help her do so.
- Electronic pill dispensers — If your mom has trouble remembering which pills to take and when (it can be very confusing!), you can get one of these nifty devices. You can load the dispenser and program it so that she can know when to take her pills. Some can even record a voice telling her when it’s time to take her pills so that she hears it from someone she loves. Some dispensers even connect with her pharmacist who can monitor her medication use.
- Emergency call buttons — These have been around since the 1980s, but these days, they’re much more sophisticated. They can use gps systems so that your loved one can run her errands and visit her friends. If something happens, she can summon help without even knowing where she is. There are some systems that can tell when the user has fallen, so that if she’s unable to ask for help, she can still get it.
- Tablets for seniors — Your mom doesn’t even need to understand how a computer works. Simple-to-use systems can make it easy for her to video chat with you and your family, and it can monitor her movements and medical care.
- GPS-enabled shoes — This is a real gadget that can help you keep track of your loved one if she wanders off. Even if she just doesn’t get home when you think she should, you can check on her.
- Easy cell phones — Not all cell phones are “smart.” Some people just want a phone they can use easily. Some carriers have simple phones with large buttons and large screen fonts so that elderly users can access them.
- Health monitoring apps — Your mom can go to the doctor, and her doctor will put all of her information in an app so that she (or you) can access it from anywhere. This way you won’t be dependent on her memory of how the visit went, and you can communicate with her doctor any time by sending emails. The systems will alert the user when it’s time for vaccinations or blood work, and you can make sure she gets to her appointments.
We live in a great time to be a senior in the United States. The technology industry comes up with new and exciting options every day to make our lives easier. But most importantly — don’t forget to call your mother.