The age of the world’s population today is the highest, or oldest, it has ever been. In the year 2000 there were 600 million people age 60 or older. In only 6 years (2006) that number had grown to 700 million. By the year 2050 the geriatric and senior populations combined are expected to reach 2.1 billion according to Wikipedia.
The chart below shows the growth of the aging US population. The elderly age group will make up over 22% of our population by 2050. Wow, that is pretty incredible. And 80% want to remain in there own home as they age even if they require daily assistance to do so. That is when looking at the best technology for seniors can make aging in place easier and safer.
Technology That Keeps People Safe at Home
I think we can all relate to the desire to stay in our own homes versus moving into with a family member or entering a health care facility. Many of us can also relate to having concerns about safety for our loved ones or ourselves as we age in place.
Lucky for us, there is some great new technology (and some that isn’t so new) that can provide support and assistance for people who want to stay in there own home as they age. The following products and services are the most useful and easy to use solutions we have come across to help people stay healthy and safe at home for as long as possible.
Medication Reminders and Dispensers
Medication management can be challenging for people of all ages. Add in factors that affect many elderly people like failing, vision loss, and forgetfulness and you have a recipe for potential disaster. Forgetting to take certain meds (like blood pressure meds for example) can have severely negative outcomes. On the other hand taking too many meds, if your forget you already took them, can be just as damaging. Read more about memory loss and aging here.
Medication management systems can ensure that the correct medications are dispensed on time. No more worry about which pill you take at what time and no more fretting over whether or not this med was already taken. The impact of missing certain meds or overdosing on others can range from minimal to the worst outcome of death. The relatively low cost and the wide variety of medication reminders and dispensers make them a great tool for the elderly and/or there worried caregiver.
The most simple pill boxes have compartments for every dose of pills taken throughout the day. You can get them for up to 4 doses per day for a 7-day period.
There are also pill boxes that will alarm to remind someone it is time for meds and some of the fancier ones will then give access only to the meds that are currently to be taken. And for the more tech-savvy a medication management app might be the best route to go.
Each of these options offers some level of safety around the often confusing medication management concern.
Home telehealth monitoring systems or Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) have become a popular and reliable way for doctor’s to assist patients in managing there health conditions while at home. RPM, in coordination with a home health nurse can reduce chronic disease flare-ups as well as improve independence at home.
Telehealth monitoring systems can check a patients weight, pulse, blood pressure and oxygen level. The readings can be sent to a monitoring agency (such as a home health agency) and also sent right to the doctor’s office.
Identifying symptoms early and intervening can reduce ER visits, reduce hospitalizations and increase patient compliance.
Some conditions that are typically monitored with telehealth:
- Congestive Heart Failure (CHF
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD)
- Myocardial Infarction (heart attack)
- Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CABG) surgery
- Orthostatic Hypotension
The machines can be costly however some private insurances will pay for the machine with a Doctor’s order. Just last year CMS made the allowance that if a person qualifies for skilled homecare visits through Medicare then Medicare will provide the monitor.
Emergency Pendants/ Fall detection
Every year one in four adults over the age of 65 will fall (according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). In fact, the CDC says falling once will double your chance of falling again.
There are many reasons older adults fall and there are a number of ways to prevent falls including making some minor and inexpensive changes to the home. Elder~Edge has put together some fall prevention tips to assist you. Even if you implement all the fall safety tips recommended, people are still going to fall sometimes. Fall alarms systems can literally be a life saver for someone who falls when home alone. Many of these systems detect a fall and automatically call 911 and other listed numbers. Some systems utilize a pendant while others use a wrist watch type band.
There are many things to consider when looking for a fall alert system including:
- Cost – one time or monthly recurring
- Contract Requirement
- Landline requirements
- Style of responder (pendant, watch) and # of responders
- Range from base
- Customer service
- Mobile Integration
If you aren’t really certain about how this type of system will work for you or your loved one, many companies have a risk free trial period. Most companies also offer free activation, and free cancellation policy. Take advantage of a free trial and you will be grateful the first time it is needed.
Fall Recovery Aides
There are a number of other strategies, techniques and products that can help someone recover from a fall. The success for using any of these systems or techniques depends on how much the person is able to assist in standing back up. Sometimes it is enough to use a small table or chair to push on and use arm strength to help regain your footing. Grab bars placed strategically around the home can be of great assistance when someone needs to pull themselves up. Some people just don’t have the strength at all and even with a chair and a grab rail they can’t push and pull enough to get back upright.
For the folks who just can’t get themselves up there are some devices that will lift you up. The Camel Inflatable Lifting Chair and the Elk Inflatable Lifting Cushion both work amazingly well for people without the strength to get up.
There are also different strategies for people who are alone and for people who have a friend or spouse to assist them by getting equipment or tools in place or offering a little lift. Important note: never jeopardize your own health or safety to get someone off the floor!
We like to have personal connections and that does not change as we age. What does change is our ability to keep in touch – with family, friends and neighbors. Depression in the elderly can be caused by isolation. Some elderly people are not driving anymore and maybe not getting out as often due to mobility issues. This doesn’t mean they can’t stay connected with the people who are important to them.
There are many great and simple tech gadgets to help the elderly stay connected.
Large button phone and video phones – there are phones that allow you to insert a picture so your loved one can just touch your picture and the phone will call you.
The Jitterbug cell phone – this is a great option with limited buttons so you can’t “mess it up.”
The grandpad – similar to the Jitterbug, the grandpad is an Ipad with fewer things to “mess up.”
There are so many ways today to make a face to face connection with loved ones even if they live across the country or across the world. And that connection just may mean the world to them and be what keeps them going day after day.
Health and Nutrition
If you aren’t able to get a good well-balanced meal then other health problems can arise. Your medicines may not be effective and you may be weak and losing weight and your body doesn’t function or heal as well as it should. Any or all of these can create more safety issues for the elderly trying to maintain a safe lifestyle at home.
Some new services, especially when joined with technology can greatly increase the meal intake of an older person. Dining is a social occasion. Cooking for one and eating alone isn’t an appealing option to many people. I know some elderly people that insist there lettuce and tomato salad is good for them. Where is the protein?, I ask them – they just don’t know what kind of foods they should be eating to maintain there health and stay strong. They think a salad of just vegetables is a great meal choice.
Providing this population with ready-made meals or depending on there ability a ready to cook meal with all the ingredients and instructions can be a real boost for there health and longevity. Here are some of my favorite ways to help the elderly improve there nutrition, intake and even help them get back some of that mealtime socialization.
Meal Delivery Service – sign them up to have ready-made meals delivered to the door. Most communities have Meals on Wheels available through the local senior center.
Senior Meals – Many communities have a senior meal weekly. There are usually people offering rides to the meals as well.
Meal Delivery (ingredients) – if the person you are concerned about can still cook look into a service that delivers fresh ingredients for a well-balanced meal with the recipe. Blue Apron or Silver Spoon offer good meal choices.
Grocery Delivery Service – place an entire grocery order and have it delivered right to the house. Try a service like Pea Pod.
Skype – maybe just having a friendly face walking them through the process is enough. Plan to prepare the same meal “together” while Skyping.
People connect over food throughout there lives and the desire to do so continues as we age.
The aging population is going to put a strain on many aspects of healthcare. Community Health teams will need to be creative in there approaches. There will still be people who are in Long Term Care facilities, however many people will put off the nursing home option, instead opting to stay in there own home and age in place. Our mission at Elder~Edge is to help people remain in there homes safely for as long as possible. We give the elderly, or anyone for that matter, an edge on aging.
We will continue to share with you products, services and new technology to assist you or your loved one so you can stay safe and healthy in the environment of your choice now and into the future.