Caring for Your Aging Parents: Where Tech Can Help

MikeLaurel | July 19, 2017

Caring for Your Aging ParentsCaring for an aging parent in their home is perhaps one of the most difficult challenges an adult child faces. You may live thousands of miles away and feel guilt-ridden that you aren’t closer to help. Or you may live less than five miles away but have daily responsibilities that make it impossible to be with your parents physically each day. Further complicating the situation is the fact that 90 percent of people over 65 want to stay living at home for as long as possible, according to the AARP.

This desire to stay at home is made even more difficult when mom or dad struggles with chronic health conditions, which is the reality for 92 percent of older Americans. This leaves adult children asking, “How can I keep mom and dad at home, manage their daily needs and feel like they’re truly safe?”

A few decades ago, adult children had access to a fraction of the resources available today. Evolving technologies can ease your greatest concerns and put common worries to rest. Here are a few options to consider when using technology to help care for your aging parent:

A Personal Emergency Response System

You may live only a few miles away, but even so, it’s difficult to know when your loved one may need help. They may get up to use the bathroom at night and, since they’re taking a medication that affects balance, an unexpected fall occurs, fracturing a hip and making it difficult to reach the phone to call for help. Regardless of the emergency, whether it be medical, fire or police, a personal emergency response system provides fast assistance.

Mobile PERS devices like Numera Libris can be worn either on the lanyard around the neck, or belt. Personal safety accessories like the Numera help buttons can also be worn on a wrist, or attached to the wall. So when an emergency occurs, your loved one simply presses a button and the right type of help will be on the way within a matter of minutes. In addition, some personal emergency response systems provide GPS location features. This technology allows the appropriate party to locate your loved one within the house more quickly. Paramedics no longer need to search through the house, wasting valuable time, but instead know the exact physical location of your parent before entering the home.

Adult children who suggest a personal emergency response system for the first time may get resistance from their parents. They may be worried about accidently triggering the system and the embarrassment of emergency workers visiting their house without cause.

Fortunately, most of these devices have a two-way speaker, so your parent can speak with an operator and explain whether help is truly required. In addition, the emergency worker can contact loved ones or neighbors when the device is triggered, so the right person can offer help when needed. As a result, your parents can rest easy, knowing they’ll receive help only if they really need it, and you get peace of mind knowing that help is available around the clock — whether it’s 2 p.m. or 2 a.m.

However, before purchasing an emergency response system, it’s important to ask a few questions. The Federal Trade Commission recommends asking the following before making a decision:

  • What are the hours of the monitoring center? Is it open 24/7, and what kind of training does the staff receive?
  • Who is alerted and what is the average response time?
  • What are the initial costs of the system? Are there costs that are ongoing, and if so, what are those costs?

Also find out whether the selected device requires a long-term monitoring contract or whether you can cancel the service at any time. Having this key piece of information allows you to try out the system and, if you have problems, easily switch to another system or technology without penalty.

Key takeaway: A personal emergency response system provides a large number of benefits to caring for aging parents. They can enjoy the independence of living in their homes while still having the ability to get help quickly if needed. When evaluating systems, select one that is easy to use and won’t create frustration for your parents, because comfort with the technology is key.

Measuring What Matters: Wearables for Seniors

The use of wearables has risen for people of all ages over the past decade, with 20 percent of all Americans using wearables to monitor daily activity and health. But these wearables aren’t just for younger generations; they provide tremendous value for the aging population.

Wearables can collect and measure valuable data that show when something is wrong with your aging parent. For example, triggers such as staying too long in bed, spending an abnormal amount of time in the bathroom or skipping meals can all be signs that your parent needs assistance. Wearable devices can report this data in real time, so you know without delay whether your loved one may have a problem.

However, one of the largest benefits of using wearable technology is knowing the instant your loved one has fallen. In fact, over 1.6 million U.S. adults are treated for fall-related injuries each year, resulting in everything from a minor bone fracture to death. As your loved ones get older, their bodies go through physical changes that put them at an increased risk for falls. For example, declining vision can affect their ability to view their surroundings accurately and identify tripping hazards. Some medications can reduce mental awareness, resulting in an increased risk of fall. Here a few quick facts to consider to better understand the risks:

  • Falls are the leading cause of death from injury for people ages 65 and older.
  • More than half of all fatal falls involve people who are ages 75 and older.
  • The risk of falls increases with age and is more common in women than men.
  • Two-thirds of those who fall will do so again within six months.

So what can you do? Wearable sensors are a great tool in helping detect falls, so if your loved one needs help, they can get it quickly — even if they don’t directly ask for it. The sensors attach to your loved one’s body and detect movements that are consistent with a fall. This smart technology extracts different data points to estimate the likelihood of a fall and alerts the appropriate parties in real time.

The market is full of wearable devices, but when shopping, keep these factors in mind to select the best option for your parent:

  • Comfortable design. A wearable devices is effective only if your loved one uses it — which is why design is so important. For example, a personal help button pendant with a flexible wrist assembly provides comfort, ease of use and 24/7 safety.
  • Large transmission range. Where is your loved one spending the most time? Maybe their home is 1,000 square feet but they use only 500 feet of it. Select a device that fully covers all the areas in which your parent spends time.
  • Personal help button. Devices can detect falls using data and technology, but it’s also useful to have a method for getting help manually. Select a device with a “personal help button” that allows your parent to ask for assistance when it’s needed.
  • Long-lasting battery. It’s critical that your loved one not have any gaps in coverage. An effective and long-lasting battery is key to providing around-the-clock coverage.

Falls are very common, so it’s not a matter of if your loved one will have a fall — it’s when. Wearables allow you to provide your aging parent with all the tools they require through a device that is comfortable to wear and minimally invasive.

Key takeaway: You might not be physically close to your parents, but you can still monitor their health and ensure they have the help required at the exact moment of relevance through wearable technology.

Tracking Health With Purpose: Protective Wellness

The use of wearable technology that monitors health is growing, but this isn’t the case for seniors, who are hesitant to use the devices. One in six consumers uses a wearable device to count steps, analyze heart rate or monitor stress levels. However, only 8 percent of caregivers reported spending money on remote monitoring devices. Still, aging parents are one of the major groups who can benefit from this technology.

In the beginning, many wearables were designed for younger users with needs that are much different than aging parents’. An elderly mom with high blood pressure and vision challenges isn’t likely to enjoy a device with too many features and difficult-to-read buttons. Getting parents on board with wearables involves selecting devices that track the right data and have a design that takes senior needs into consideration.

The right wearables can track critical data about your mom or dad’s health and send that data directly to your smartphone. These devices can monitor a variety of critical health data, including heart rate, physical activity, blood oxygen levels and much more. For example, when your parent’s blood pressure makes an unexpected jump, you can call them and start asking questions. Maybe their doctor recently switched medications and the new solution is creating spikes in blood pressure. Wearables let you know there might a problem, so you can work on getting to the bottom of it.

The monitoring of sleep can also be accomplished through these devices. For example, a parent may suffer from chronic fatigue and not understand why, because they’re sleeping eight hours each night. The device may provide the key to better understanding their sleep patterns and challenges. Perhaps mom or dad is “sleeping” eight hours each night, but only six hours is active sleep because your parent is restless and gets up frequently.

You can take what you learn from the wearable technology and share it with your parent’s doctor. Perhaps the doctor recently switched medications and sleep loss is a potential side effect. After realizing your parent is having this side effect, the doctor may decide to try another medication, which in turn helps your parent improve the quality of their sleep.

Key takeaway: Talk with your parent about the benefits and potential situations in which wearables can help improve the quality of their lives so you can better care for your aging parents in their home. Explain that these devices can help you better understand their needs and that together you can figure out how to solve any challenges they face.

Moving Forward With Greater Health

The majority of retirement-age individuals strive for independence during their senior years. But this isn’t easy for their children, who are overcome with worry and unsure of the best way to help while being respectful and keeping the peace. What if mom falls down and nobody knows it’s happened, and then she lies on the floor for hours? Or what if dad has another heart attack and can’t get help fast enough because nobody knows that he’s struggling?

New technologies puts these worries to rest. Parents maintain their coveted independence while adult children can finally breathe easier, with many of their most pressing worries lifted. And it’s only when this delicate balance is struck that families can feel greater harmony and confidence that help is closer than ever when parents are living alone.

Who is Nortek Security?

Nortek Security & Control has over three million security and home control systems installed, making it the clear category leader under its award-winning 2GIG® brand. Its technology delivers the convenience of IoT devices to the mass market, offering solutions that are affordable and easy to install and use. For more information, visit