Don’t wait for a crisis to put systems in place to provide safety measures that can help you to take care of your elderly parents.
“It usually takes an emergency situation or scare to prompt a family to consider remote care technology and other safety precautions for their loved one,” said Debbie Allison, co-owner of Homewatch CareGivers in central Pennsylvania.
Most families are not proactive in setting up remote care technology and ensuring in-home senior safety — in some ways, it means admitting and accepting that mom and dad are aging, and may not be fully capable of independent living.
In the day of families living cross-country — instead of across town or down the street — making certain that aging loved ones are protected, secure, and equipped to handle an emergency is more important than ever.
“One of our elderly clients decided to knock the icicles off her roof one evening, after a very cold and snowy winter storm,” she said. “She slipped off her back deck, landing in a snowdrift, and only survived because she had a PERS unit in her pocket.” The Allisons say it would’ve been hours (if not days) until anyone would have known — the woman could’ve frozen to death, or suffered from severe hypothermia — but thankfully, her family had taken steps to ensure the safety of their mother and grandmother. “The next day, she called our office and thanked us for saving her life,” Mrs. Allison added.
Have the Talk
Communication about your concerns is the first step in keeping your loved ones safe. Prepare a script or write a letter before you actually talk to your elder parent just to explore your feelings first. When speaking to them, avoid a “winning the argument” mentality and plan to have more than one conversation on the topic.
One of the simplest issues to address in the home of your loved one is to prevent falls. According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, falls are the leading cause of death and injuries among Americans age 65 and older. Making your parents’ home safer can also be a way to spend time together as you help with removing clutter, eliminating tripping hazards such as loose rugs, installing night lights, and more.
It makes sense to also implement emergency preparedness plans and equipment as you are helping to de-clutter the house. Take time to check the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, verify or create an emergency evacuation plan, see if any appliances like toasters or microwaves need to be updated and have secure plug-ins, and make a list of important emergency contact phone numbers of people nearby.
Although people tend to feel most safe and secure in their homes, accidents do happen and there is technology available to make sure your loved one gets the help they need when they need it. The Allisons recommend that families — especially those living afar — consider remote care technology, including a personal response system (PERS), environmental monitoring and medication management technology.
Personal emergency response system (PERS) is a waterproof pendant that can be worn either as a necklace or bracelet, designed to help your loved one communicate a need for help in the event of an emergency. Once the button on a PERS unit is pushed, professionals are contacted to determine the type of response necessary for the situation, and family members are alerted via phone or e-mail.
There are other safety devices that can be installed to help keep your loved one safe and give you peace of mind. For example, environmental monitoring systems observe carbon monoxide levels, the presence of smoke or a fire, extreme heat and cold, and can also function as motion detectors — ensuring a safe home environment for seniors. These systems also include an emergency response system that can call for help, while your loved one focuses on getting to a safe place in the event of an emergency. Carbon monoxide and smoke detectors immediately alert the local fire department. The motion detectors will learn the patterns of your loved one, so if mom isn’t up in the kitchen at 8 a.m. as usual, family is alerted.
“Remote care technology is good when a parent or loved one is just starting to get to the point where they are having a few minor issues,” Doug Allison, co-owner of Homewatch CareGivers of central Pennsylvania, said.