Across town or across the country, it’s tough to look after an aging parent when you left the nest years ago. But sometimes, moving home or having elderly parents move in with you simply isn’t an option and you’re left to navigate caring from hundreds or thousands of miles away.
It’s not an uncommon problem: It’s estimated there are as many as 7 million long-distance caregivers in the U.S. Thankfully, technology is making this challenging dynamic much easier to manage. If you’re a long-distance caregiver, here are four high-tech solutions you should be using.
The best way to keep tabs on your senior parent’s health is to talk regularly. While chatting on the phone is nice, but it doesn’t offer much insight into a person’s well-being. Video chat services like Skype, on the other hand, let you see a loved one’s face, making it easier to tell if she’s feeling unwell or upset.There are plenty of free video chat services on the market so you can converse without worrying about running up the phone bill on either end. If your parent isn’t quite tech-savvy, there are easy-to-use video chat devices designed to make this technology accessible to senior users.
If you’re wondering if automatic fall detection is an important tool to have in your long-distance caregiving arsenal, consider this: Falls are the leading cause of fatal injuries for the elderly in the U.S., with one in four seniors over the age of 65 falling annually. Over 27,000 seniors will die from falling every year, and another 800,000 will be treated for fall-related injuries. With automatic fall detection, you can be alerted if your elderly parent falls and is unable to get up. Most fall detection sensors come with a feature that automatically calls emergency services when there’s no movement following a fall, so you can rest assured your loved one will get help as quickly as possible.
Smart House Technology
The technology behind smart homes is complex, but the concept is simple: A smart home lets you control basic home functions like temperature, lighting, entertainment, and security systems through devices like phones or tablets. In more advanced systems, the technology can even learn residents’ habits and take anticipatory action.
For seniors, smart technology means a big improvement in everyday convenience. No more fumbling for a light switch during a late-night bathroom trip or walking across the house to make sure the front door is locked.
For seniors’ caregivers, it means major peace of mind about a loved one’s safety. Motion detectors let you know if an elderly parent hasn’t gotten out of bed or if she left the house and hasn’t returned. Smart pill dispensers use auditory and visual cues to remind seniors when a medication is due and let caregivers know if a dose is missed. Smart home technology can even be paired with wearable sensors to provide live data on a fragile senior’s vital signs, sleep patterns, and activity level.
Web-Based Domestic Help
Not every long-distance caregiving problem can be solved with technology alone; however, even in those instances technology is a helpful tool for finding the right solution. Caregivers can easily find personal help for their elderly parent by using web-based hiring services for domestic helpers.
A number of websites make it simple to hire trustworthy services for your parents from afar. You can find professionals to provide help with housekeeping, lawn care, rides to appointments and social outings, among others. If your parent has a beloved pet that she’s struggling to keep up with, you can even hire in-home pet care to help with walks, grooming, and vet appointments. If you’re looking to hire a helper for your elderly parent, consult reviews from prior clients to find someone you can trust.
Being a caregiver for an elderly parent is hard no matter where you are. Looking after a loved one’s well being from a distance adds its own unique set of challenges, but modern caregivers have more opportunities than ever to maximize the depth and quality of their involvement thanks to these innovative technologies.
Written By Maria Villeza from Elder Impact
Contact New Horizons In-Home Care in Eugene: 541-687-8851, Corvallis: 541-752-9059, Salem: 503-400-3000, or Florence: 541-997-8115 to discuss your needs for senior care in Eugene and the surrounding communities, and how we can help with long-distance caregiving.