Great Gadgets to Care for the Aging
It is only natural for the elderly to want to stay at home for an indefinite period of time. But their loved ones believe that it is a recipe for worry and accidents. Seniors do not want to let go of their independence but at the expense of their safety and total well-being. If you're concerned about your live-alone parents' safety or just their day-to-day ease of living, invest in these technologies aimed at elders who have made the choice to "age in place".
- If you worry that your parents won’t be able to reach you in an emergency:
Give them a big-button phone like the Jitterbug ($147), designed specifically for seniors. Many seniors do not like cell phones because it is too complex for them or the tiny buttons are too hard to manage. The Jitterbug One-Touch is an easy-open clamshell with extra-loud speakers, big backlit buttons, a bright screen with easy-to-read numbers, and a straightforward service contract (at an additional cost). It also takes simplicity a step further, with just three big, impossible-to-miss buttons -- one for 911; one for the operator, who will connect your parent to anyone she wants to reach; and one pre-programmed to connect your parents to you or another family member. Such phones cost $10 to $80 per month for the service plan in addition to the cost of the phone.
- If you worry about the mess inside the house:
Get the iRobot, a family of automated cleaners ($120 to $500), available at your local big-box store. Although you could hire someone to clean your parents' home, you don’t want to pull down your parents' sense of dignity and control. The tiny, effective iRobot Roomba can handle a simple problem like a spilled box of cereal. The Scooba, which washes floors on its own, can prevent your parents from slipping and falling while trying to keep them clean. The Looj can let your parents save on a handyman’s fees because it can clean the rain-gutter efficiently.
- If you worry your parents will burn themselves in the shower:
Temperature-activated flow reducer won’t let the shower get too hot, even if your parents zone out while taking a bath. It's relatively low-tech and can cost less than $40. A screw-on faucet attachment prevents burns by shutting off the water from a sink or shower if it gets too hot.
- If you worry about them forgetting their medications or taking in the wrong ones:
Automatic pill reminders will keep them from getting their prescriptions scrambled. MD.2, for example, is a monitored dispenser that you or a caregiver can load and refill, and your parents can dispense all their pills right on time, with one touch of a button. Rescue Alert will monitor your parents' pillbox electronically and alert a dispatcher if the lid isn't opened when it's supposed to be.
- If you worry that a fire can accidentally start in the kitchen:
Get the Safe-T-element Cooking System. This device consists of cover plates you can install over existing stovetop burners that limit how hot they can get and automatically shut off the stove if they reach a certain temperature.
- If you worry that your parents will fall and won't be able to get up:
The Personal Emergency Response System (PERS) lets your parents connect to a 24-hour call centre with a push of the button. The transmitter can be worn on a neck pendant. PERS can be purchased or leased, and prices vary widely. Expect to pay $200 to $1,500 if your parents want to own their system, plus a small monthly monitoring fee. Rentals, which usually include monitoring, average $15 to $50 a month.
- If you worry they will miss phone calls or leave visitors standing outside the door:
The doorbell-telephone flashing-light signaller will let your parents know when they have a call or visitors have arrived.