Technology Options for Long-Distance Caregiving
It’s no secret that we’re in an aging society. As many seniors now live well into their eighties and nineties, many people find themselves in a position of having to provide care to their parents, grandparents, and other family members. In fact, 34.2 million Americans have provided unpaid care to an adult over the age of 50 in the last twelve months, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP.
Caregiving is challenging enough when you live near the person. What happens when you find yourself on the other side of the country and you’re worried about a loved one who needs your help?
Fortunately, we also live in a time with unprecedented technology at our fingertips. Your grandparents may have had only a land line telephone to connect with someone to see how they were doing but your options are much more extensive.
Here are four ideas of how you can make the most of today’s technology:
Your cell phone – Not that long ago, long distance phone calls were expensive and limited to special occasions. With long distance calling plans, that’s no longer the case and you can call anyone around the world without worrying about the cost. Get into the habit of calling your mom every morning at 8 am before leaving for work. You’ll know that she’s up and everything is okay before you start your day. You’ll both benefit from the routine and within 24 hours you’ll know if anything has happened that you should be concerned about.
Home monitoring sensors – You can install webcams that allow you to see in your parent’s home at any time of the day or night to see if they’re active or sleeping. If that seems too invasive, there are other systems that detect inactivity after so many hours and will notify you.
Personal response systems – There are a variety of personal response pendants and medical alert systems available that your loved one can wear. If they have a fall or an emergency, they can get help with the press of a button and you’ll be notified. Consider giving your mom or dad a subscription to one of these services as a birthday or Christmas gift.
Home care agencies – If you’re thinking about hiring professional caregivers from an agency to help care for your parents, ask how they will communicate with you. Many agencies use platforms that have family chat rooms and messaging options. You should be able to get an update each time a caregiver is with your parents, so you know how they were during the visit.
The bottom line is that the challenges of caregiving, although never easy, can be managed from a distance because of the dizzying number of devices and systems that are available. You’ll have to do some research to learn about the many options that are out there, and you’ll probably have to test some before you find exactly what you need for your situation. But in the end, you’ll be sure to discover the solutions that will allow you to stay connected and in control of your loved one’s wellbeing even if you’re on the other side of the world.