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It’s hard to watch your parents age when you’re not nearby to help out, but there’s a lot family members can do to keep seniors safe even when they can’t be there themselves. From installing technology to hiring professional help, here are seven ways you can ensure your loved one is cared for every day.
1. Motion-Activated Lighting
Finding their way through a dark house at night leaves seniors vulnerable to falls, which can hold grave consequences for the elderly. Even when it’s not dangerous, walking across the room to switch a light on or off is burdensome for people with mobility limitations. Replacing light switches with motion-activated lighting ensures a senior’s path is always illuminated. If automated lighting is out of the budget, add LED nightlights in essential areas and replace toggle switches with arthritis-friendly rocker switches.
2. Medical Alert Devices
For seniors who live independently, falling at home poses a life-threatening risk. Medical alert systems get emergency services to seniors in need as quickly as possible. While some devices require the user to activate the alert, the best ones automatically detect a fall and contact emergency services on the wearer’s behalf.
3. Video Chat
While phone calls are a great way to stay in touch, video chatting adds a level of connection that voice alone can’t. An easy-to-use smartphone or tablet with a camera lets the elderly converse face-to-face with family members and caregivers. In turn, those people have an opportunity to visually assess a senior’s wellbeing, rather than relying on self-reporting alone.
4. Automated Pill Dispensers
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average adult over 65 fills more than 20 prescriptions every year. While some of those are short-term prescriptions, many are intended for long-term use. Keeping up with a heavy medication regimen is challenging for anyone, but especially for seniors whose cognitive abilities are changing with age. The best way to ensure medications are taken as intended, and to prevent prescription drug misuse, is to use automated pill dispensers that remind seniors when each medication is due.
5. eHealth Tools
Sometimes, a senior’s long list of medications includes drugs that are contraindicated or multiple prescriptions treating the same condition. This happens when doctors aren’t fully informed about a patient’s medical history, and it can lead to a potentially fatal drug interaction. Rather than typing up a new medication list every time a dose changes, seniors can store drug details, test results, and more all in one place using a personal health record app. HealthIT.govoffers recommendations on PHR apps worth trying.
6. Home Security
Whether you’re worried about a senior citizen with Alzheimer’s disease wandering away from home or a stranger breaking in, a home security adds peace of mind when you’re not around to keep an eye on the senior in your care.
7. In-Home Help
Despite advancements in technology, sometimes there’s just no substitute for human touch. Hiring in-home services to help with housekeeping, cooking, and other daily requirements reassures family that their loved one’s needs are being met. For seniors who need basic assistance and want to remain at home, these services are an attractive option. And, depending on the amount of care required, they can be a more affordable option as well. For example, in Washington D.C., a resident could spend $3,000 on care services and $2,787 on their mortgage, and still spend less than the $5,933 it would take to live in an assisted living facility.
According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the vast majority of American seniors want to age in place rather than moving to a care facility. However, preserving independence means acknowledging and accommodating the changes that come with age. While there’s no catch-all solution that will work for everyone, these seven ideas are a big step toward keeping seniors safe at home.
Author June Duncan for Polish Care Services
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