How caregivers use technology to care for the elderly

As a person ages, they begin to need closer care and usually the family is the first to be contacted. However, the caregiver (could be a son or daughter, close relative or even a person hired for this task) may not be available full time, may not live close enough to help in cases of emergency or may not have the financial means to bring the elderly relative to live closer. Cases are not rare.

With this, technology can help. It probably won't solve the problem completely, but it can simplify some everyday situations – both for the older person and the caregiver.

With that in mind, reporter Barbara Krasnoff, from The Vergewho faces a similar situation to her 90-year-old mother and suspected Alzheimer's, interviewed people from a support group called Working Daughter and listed some technologies that can help elderly people live more comfortably in their own home.

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Voice assistants (help and companionship in the same place)

Respondents cited intelligent voice assistants as an important resource to help care for elderly relatives. The main devices mentioned were Amazon's Echo Show and Echo Dot, both with Alexa. Only one person mentioned Google Home.

According to the reporter herself, when her mother started to have memory problems, she bought the Echo Show 8. The assistant reminds her to take her medicine every day, helps her call her daughter in case of emergency (she doesn't always remember the number ) and makes you less lonely in general, engaging in conversations or playing music that you like to listen to.

Working Daughter member Linda Alpers said Alexa helps her communicate with her live-in parents while she's at work. She monitors them using video cameras and asks the assistant, remotely, to turn up the volume on the TV, turn on lights and other connected activities in the house.

Paula Fontes-Paul reports that she thought Alexa would be a good idea to keep her elderly father company, but that the Amazon device does not understand his Spanish accent (even though he is speaking in English) and this only made his relationship worse with technology.

In addition to helping with daily reminders, personal assistants can also be good companions. One interviewee said that there are already devices designed especially to keep older people company, such as Joy For All, a simulated “pet” that moves and purrs, giving the feeling that there is a real pet in the house.

Pet Joy For All (Image: Joy For All/Disclosure)

Smart cameras

Other interviewees reported how smart cameras installed around an elderly person's home can help. Particularly in cases of cognitive decline, which often involves memory loss about everyday situations, the devices help caregivers monitor the health and well-being of parents and, if necessary, come to their rescue.

However, some participants in the report reported how the connection depends on the internet and, on rainy days and with unstable connectivity, the cameras let them down.

Pill dispensers and trackers

  • Working Daughter founder Liz O'Donnell told us about a new device: pill dispensers;
  • Produced by a company called Hero Health, they alert elderly people when it is time to take their medication and dispense pills at the right dose;
  • According to her, the invention was useful when her mother, with Alzheimer's, stopped being able to administer the right times and quantities of her own medications during the day;
  • She also reported using Samsung SmartTag trackers for important items her mother lost around the house;
  • She also used the tracker on her own mother, as the woman was used to leaving without warning and lived in a less crowded place, where she was not always seen.
3rd generation Echo Dot, with Alexa (Image: publicity/Amazon)
3rd generation Echo Dot, with Alexa (Image: publicity/Amazon)

Smart Homes

Smart homes, with functions connected to the internet and each other, are also a good option for remote control.

Jena Reed, an IT professional who lives with her mother in remission from cancer, said she uses smart switches and light bulbs to guide her when she is not at home. Additionally, she installed cameras and Alexa-enabled devices around the house to make it easier to communicate from any room.

Furthermore, the voice assistant can perform tasks with just one command, such as raising window blinds or changing the temperature in the house.

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