When it comes to gadgets and gizmos, we live in exciting times. Thanks to new product developments, you can put the many advantages of technology to work for you as you care for your loved one.
Several solutions not only make life easier for you, they can also help your loved one maintain as much of his or her independence and dignity as possible. Other smart tools provide support for vital communication between family, friends, and medical personnel.
Whether it’s a simple tool or a high-tech device, integrating just a few ideas into your lives can help ease the physical and emotional concerns that often accompany your role as caregiver.
Simple and smart solutions
Karen Stevenson, owner and publisher of ElderWeb, believes there are two important objectives when helping a loved one maintain independence: avoiding falls and maintaining communication. When her father returned home from surgery, she used many of the following solutions to ease the transition during his recovery.
Grab Bars. Often used in bathrooms, grab bars provide a secure holding point when getting in and out of the tub or shower, or when using the toilet. You can avoid the institutional look with aesthetically pleasing designs that resemble towel racks. There are also grab bars that require no installation. Some simply hook onto a tub, while others are portable, sliding beneath a mattress to help with getting into and out of bed.
Tension Poles. For support when standing or moving, try placing a tension pole in any room. This simple support tool is held securely in place through tension between the floor and ceiling.
Reachers. Long-handled tools that grab and retract are great for use around the kitchen. But they can also be used anywhere someone might need to reach for high objects or for things across a room.
Glow Tape. Make a simple path of tape strips from the bed to the bathroom or kitchen to cut down on nighttime confusion.
Audio Monitors. No longer just for new moms, monitors give caregivers the freedom to roam throughout the house or in the yard while still attending to a loved one’s needs.
Car caddies. These handy straps attach to car windows, so loved ones can pull themselves up and out of cars.
Helpful high-tech solutions
Today's technological advances go beyond independent living aids to also help caregivers maintain their own lives while preserving their peace of mind. Joy Loverde, author of The Complete Eldercare Planner, uses the term “gerontechnology” to describe such advances.
“With this technology, we can go to work and still watch over our loved one, be stranded on an airplane and still do the banking or make appointments, or live across the country and still see (our loved one) in real time.”
Here are some key technologies that simplify the task of caregiving, and make life more enjoyable for everyone.
Personal Digital Assistants. PDAs for short, these small electronic organizers can be lifesavers for helping a caregiver keep track of medications and appointments. Many models also send and receive e-mail, and offer Internet access.
Cell Phones. Affordable and portable, mobile phones keep family members in constant contact and give loved ones security by keeping one well within reach, either pocketed or clipped on.
Automated Medication Management. Pillboxes have gone high-tech. Many beep, flash, or speak with timely reminders of when and what medications to take. There are even those that can alert a caregiver if a pill was not taken as scheduled. The latest in-home medical device is Web-enabled and acts much like an ATM, allowing doctors, pharmacists, or other healthcare providers the ability to schedule medications and alter dosages with the click of a mouse.
Family Browser Groups. With the use of a computer, caregivers can create private, online gathering spots for family members, allowing everyone to be in constant, real-time communication, no matter where in the world they may be. It's used to post photos or bulletin-board messages, and to involve everyone as virtual caregivers. With the ease of a browser group, family members can share tasks like making appointments, managing administrative issues, or researching questions about conditions or care.
Web Cams. Affordable and easy to set up, Web cams allow people to “see” one another in real time while chatting by phone or on the computer. It's another unique way to host live family conferences when members are scattered across the country and keep everyone involved in caring for your loved one. And it keeps your loved one connected to the family.
Technology tends to be expensive when it first debuts, but gets more price-accessible in a short time. Some choices, unfortunately, are always expensive. How to decide whether a product is worth the investment? Stevenson offers this great advice.
“Look at the whole situation and determine if the equipment or service would solve the problem and if so, for how long. If the alternative to a chair lift is moving grandma into an assisted living facility, the lift will be less expensive in the long run, both in the financial and emotional cost for everyone.”
Innovation is transforming the care of older adults, making it easier for them to remain independent longer in their homes and communities. Technology can also eliminate geographic boundaries, allowing you to get much-needed support and assistance from other family members. With the right tools, you'll save time and energy, and maintain a healthy balance between caring for your loved one and caring for yourself.
A safety monitoring system is also a great idea. I found one that doesn't have a monthly charge. The wearer pushes a button if there is a problem and the system dials 911. This system uses an existing phone line. Great gift idea- Mother's Day & Father's Day!
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