Children who are caring for a parent from a distance away have a stressful life. They spend a lot of time traveling back and forth putting out fires and just making sure that Mom and Dad have food in the fridge and all their prescriptions are up to date. The good news is that there are a lot of resources available for long distance caregiving.
I interviewed Jim Reynolds, owner of Caring Companions Home Care Agency in Concord to get information on technology for home care. During our discussion, I learned quite a bit about how technological resources are making it easier to care for a senior from a distance.
Before even discussing technology, however, there are professionals you can hire who can provide or supervise care for seniors and make the lives of long distance caregivers so much easier.
Professional Caregivers/Care Managers
Private Care Managers/Aging Life Managers are usually nurses or social workers with experience working with seniors. Care managers can assess their client’s care needs, set up home care, oversee home care workers, manage doctor appointments, manage medications, monitor the clients and report back to caregiver children.
In some cases when I have clients with no children living nearby, I recommend a private care manager who will check in with my clients once a month and be sure there is a “back up plan” in the event the client or his/her spouse is ill, injured or in the hospital. The care manager is available to set an emergency plan in motion when necessary.
Home Care Agency– using an agency to provide home care may be more expensive, but there are a number of advantages. 1) You are protected if the caregiver is injured on the job, 2) if the caregiver is unable to come to work, the agency will arrange for a substitute, 3) no need to worry about payroll, withholding taxes or social security payments, 4) professional training of the aides, and more.
Bill Payers– also called Daily Money Managers, these professionals are insured against error or malfeasance. Usually they work for an hourly rate. They can go to the house, review the bills with the clients and be sure every is paid on time. Even a fee of several hundred dollars a month is less than the cost of losing health insurance or homeowner’s insurance.
Elder Law Attorney– consult an elder law attorney to ascertain that the clients have a Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy and other documents necessary to make decisions from a distance.
On-Line Bill Paying/Money Management
Regular monthly bills can usually be paid online even from a distance. Many bills can be set up for automatic payment to avoid cancellation due to non-payment. Investments can be managed online also.
There are amazing advances in long distance medicine. According to Jim Reynolds, one of the goals of technology is to reduce or postpone the need to have expensive personal care. Using technology can save money and help an aging parent live at home longer.
Just a few of the telemedicine advances are:
- Electronic pill boxes can now dispense medication at pre-programmed times.
- Scales can wirelessly send a patient’s weight and heart rate to the doctor’s office.
- Blood pressure machines can send data to a doctor’s office.
- Wireless glucose monitors can monitor blood sugar levels and send the data to the doctor.
- Special alarms can be used to alert long distance caregivers when a parent leaves the house or leaves the stove on.
- There are many monitors to reduce falls. Since some dementia patients cannot remember to push a monitor if they fall, some monitors can sense a sudden change in the angle of the wearer and send an alert. There are also monitors which can be worn in the shower, which is when most falls occur. Monitors can look like watches or brooches.
- GPS devices can track a patient who wanders or who may get lost, but they are also used to help emergency services locate a person who suffers a fall outside their home.
- Many devices have been invented to help those with arthritis accomplish simple daily items such as food preparation.
Using Technology to Manage Caregivers
When you need to hire in home professional homecare, technology can help long distance caregivers monitor the situation. For example, some families install cameras to keep an eye on their elderly parent and/or the caregivers.
The home care workers can use a phone camera to snap daily photos of the patient and send them to the children.
Skype and Facetime can be used to maintain personal contact with parents from a distance.
Jim has developed an “app” which is used by his home care workers to document the patient’s meals, activities, and wellbeing and send the information to the patient’s caregiver children. Using the app, a caregiver can monitor the arrival/departure times of the home care worker and receive photo documentation of the parent’s meals and activities. The connectivity and verification of care gives caregivers tremendous piece of mind.
As our population ages, families will rely more and more on technology to help their loved ones remain independent at home. Investigate all these areas but also be sure to use home health care agencies when the human touch is necessary.