Opinion

How technology keeps seniors safe

In last month’s column we addressed the importance that seniors place on being able to maintain a home living environment for as long as possible. However, such a strong determination is not without its challenges and potential pitfalls. As we observed, merely desiring to remain independent is no guarantee that a senior can maintain a “safe” living space, or be able to cope with the “Activities of Daily Living” (ADLs) such as grocery shopping, meal preparation, laundry, grooming and hygiene and basic household cleaning. Unless seniors have a safety net of family and friends to monitor their well-being, there are risks that can often result in harmful consequences.

I can’t stress strongly enough that when a senior begins exhibiting signs of neglecting basic activities of personal care, or experiences a fall, or manifests the early stages of dementia, that is the time to take seriously making provision for family care, or hiring a home caregiver to assist the senior with those issues.

However, before such assistance is needed, there are actually some marvelous innovations in technology that have been developed that can provide a level of security and confidence for seniors living at home. And although I don’t have space in this column to identify all of these products and services, I do want to highlight several of the more relevant and practical ones.

The first one that is especially useful is a Personal Emergency Response System.

This system is typically comprised of a two-way voice console unit that connects to an existing phone line and a lightweight water-resistant activator, worn around the neck or wrist. If assistance is needed, the senior simply presses the button and the console unit dials the Response Center which opens a two-way voice connection with a trained response operator. Seven days a week, 24 hours a day, an operator will immediately respond to determine the level of help required.

The second product that has great value for seniors (and especially their families) is one of the most highly sophisticated innovations on the market today — an advanced sensor system that discretely monitors the daily activities of someone living alone. This system provides the highest level of passive security available for an elderly person living alone. Family members or friends can be granted access to a secure Web site so they can check the status at any time. The system recognizes and reports normal, healthy behaviors — and significant changes — during the times seniors are alone in their residences. When there are changes in behavior that indicate potential health problems or dangerous situations, the system alerts caregivers so that it can provide appropriate medical attention.

The third innovation is actually a service designed to call a senior one to three times per day with either a medication reminder or a well-being check up. If the call is for a medication reminder, the calls are made at prescribed times, describing the medication to be taken by name, and then notifies the caregiver if the senior doesn’t confirm the call. For well-being calls, the system is automated and interactive, up to three calls per day, and is also designed to notify the caregiver if the senior doesn’t confirm the call.

While technology has provided us with many tools for keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe and secure, there is nothing more valuable than the love and care we receive from family and friends. As we look ahead to this coming year, I trust that you will experience a very happy and prosperous New Year.

Carl R. Johnson, a certified senior advisor, is community relations director for Abiding HomeCare in Silverdale.

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