Are you struggling with how to care for aging parents while being a full time mom, dad, or employee?
Balancing your own responsibilities while caring for your parents can be a monumental challenge. Perhaps you live in another city, you’re spread too thin with commitments to your own career or kids, your parents are self-isolating, or you just don’t get along.
Regardless of the reason, there are a host of new technologies that are revolutionizing caregiving, allowing you to ensure your parents safety, health, and happiness without having to be physically present. A win-win for all!
1. Stay Connected
As our parents get older, many lose their best friends, family, and loved ones to age, leaving them exposed to the dangers of isolation and loneliness((National Institute on Aging: Social isolation, loneliness in older people pose health risks)). Fortunately, it’s never been easier, or cheaper, to stay connected from afar. Whether through phone, text, or video, you can speak with your parents every day, no matter where you are.
You can even use video chat to involve your parents in family activities. For example, you can have your parents read a bed time story to your kids every night, do a toast at dinner time, or let them watch your kids at their soccer game. The possibilities are endless.
You should also use that time to visually monitor your parents for changes in their appearance, mood, or behavior. Do they look sad, anxious, or tired when they normally wouldn’t? Are they getting dressed, combing their hair, etc.? Any significant changes should be investigated further.
2. Set up Deliveries
As our parents age, many will lose the ability to drive or have mobility or vision issues, making shopping on their own virtually impossible. Making sure your parents have groceries, meals, medications, and household items is critical. In the past, you’d have to go shopping for your parents, maybe even cook them their meals if they couldn’t do it themselves. Now, you can simply set up delivery.
To help ease the burden of shopping for your parents, set up home delivery for their groceries. You can do the same for their medications from their local or online pharmacy and make sure they come sorted by day in convenient pill packs. If your parents have trouble making their own hot meals, look for the local Meals on Wheels((Meals on Wheels America: Find a Meals on Wheels Provider Near You)) in your area and see if they can deliver prepared meals to your parents’ doorstep.
3. Organize Access to Help
Falls are the number one cause of injuries((CDC: Important Facts about Falls)) to older adults. They cause more fatalities, head trauma, and broken hips than any other source of injury. Knowing your parents can get help, even when they’re injured and alone, is key to their independence and your peace of mind.
Older adults can now access life alert systems((Senior Safety Reviews: Life Alert Cost Comparison and Review)) that protect them in and outside their home, use GPS, and have automatic fall detection. They can wear a pendent around the neck, on their wrist, or integrate the technology into a smartwatch. Other technologies don’t require you to wear anything at all and have wall mounted devices that monitor movements, or lack thereof, in your home.
Regardless of the technology, it’s easy to offer your parents access to help in the event of a fall or medical emergency to protect them in case of an accident in the shower, on the stairs, or in their garden.
4. Install Home Security
Seniors tend to be more vulnerable to theft, abuse, and exploitation than the rest of the population. Social isolation, cognitive decline, impaired mobility, poor vision, and increased trustworthiness((Scientific American: Why Older Adults Are Too Trusting)) all tend to make older adults prime targets, not only from strangers, but even more so from caregivers and family members.
Fortunately, there are several things you can do to keep a watchful eye over those coming into contact with your parents. First of all, you can install a video doorbell. Doing so will allow you to see who’s at your parents’ door and when. In fact, you can set it up so you can talk to them from the intercom before they enter, and you can be the one to unlock the door.
You can also install video cams with microphones inside the house. This will allow you to monitor those who might be taking care of your parents or entering their home. You can see if your parents are being treated properly, talked to respectfully, and being paid attention to. You should even make the cameras visible to act as a deterrent to nefarious behavior.
Lastly, you can add a home security system, which you can arm and disarm remotely from your phone, to ensure your parents and their valuables are protected from home intruders.
5. Consider Smart Home Management
Remember those days when seniors had trouble using the TV remote, thermostat, radio, or telephone key pad? Those days are long gone.
As seniors age, poor vision, mobility, and manual dexterity can make many routine tasks become anything but routine. Fortunately, many new smart home technologies, like digital voice assistants (Amazon Alexa or Google Home, for example), are dramatically facilitating routine tasks.
For example, seniors with poor visibility can now turn on their TV and change channels from the digital voice assistant. Your parents can also call you with a simple voice command without having to fumble through a phone book or tiny keypad. Not only that, but they can also control the temperature, lights, locks, and radio all by voice command. All of those functionalities can make living independently at home much easier for your parents.
6. Provide Assistive Devices
Many seniors move out of their homes because they outgrow them. Instead, try helping your parents by having their homes adapt to their needs. There are a slew of devices((Seniorlink Blog: Home Modifications for Aging in Place)) that can really help them avoid injury and make life a lot easier as they age in their homes.
Perhaps one of the most important is the addition of grab bars in the shower, bath, and by the toilets. We can all slip getting in and out of the tub, and having a grab bar nearby can literally be a life saver for seniors.
Other helpful aids include motion-sensing water taps (great for those with arthritis and memory impairment because they automatically shut off), bidet toilets (ensures proper hygiene and helps those who have trouble reaching, and dramatically reduces UTI’s), and a shower chair (makes it easier to clean all body parts).
You can see that even if you live in another city, or you’re at work or taking care of your own kids, there are still plenty of great ways to care for your parents’ health, safety, and happiness.
While nothing can replace a hug, a kiss, or breaking bread with mom and dad, sometimes it’s just not possible. Technologies are revolutionizing how we’re able to care for and interact with our parents. Perhaps most importantly, it’s also giving them the ability to remain in their own homes far longer than in the past while maintaining their dignity and independence.
More Tips on How to Care for Aging Parents
5 Tips for Maintaining Work-Life Balance with Aging Parents
3 New Technologies To Care For An Aging Parent
8 Questions to Ask Your Aging Parent