IoT has its downsides, ( see our article about hacking earlier) – but at a time when we are banging on about personalised and community healthcare, here like a ray of sunlight, comes some essential truth, by Rafi Zauer, Head of Marketing at appropriately, the Essence company.
The ‘sandwich generation’—adults who have to simultaneously take care of their aging parents and deal with other responsibilities like work and raising their own children– is a consequence of increasing life expectancy in developed countries, and the wish of the elderly to stay independent and continue to live in their own home.
This can be a very stressful situation, and for those who find themselves in this position, every bit of help is more than welcome. And technology may be able to assist. A modern smart home will become an invaluable tool to help you take care of your aging loved ones. How? Here are five tips:
1. Be alerted about deviations from their daily routine
By installing motion sensors in strategic places around the house, you will know at what time your parents get up, or if they opened the fridge to get something to eat. You will be able to follow their daily routine and detect if anything is amiss. For example, you will receive an alert if they stayed in bed, or in the bathroom, much longer than usual. That way, you will be able to check on them and make sure they are well, without interfering with their daily habits, respecting their privacy at all times.
2. Make sure they aren’t wandering out of the house
Thanks to a smart lock you will be notified every time they enter and leave the house. This is not about spying on their every move, but about making sure they are safe. This is especially useful for seniors who are becoming increasingly frail or infirm, as well as for those in the early stages of dementia, for whom it may be dangerous to leave the house on their own. Also, with a smart lock you can even lock and unlock the door for them. For example, if they tend to forget to lock the front door at night, you can set a rule to lock it automatically at a specific time every night.
3. Keep track of their medication schedule
By installing a magnetic door sensor on the medicine cabinet door, you will know if your senior parent remembered to take his daily pills. By consulting the activity log from your smartphone app, you will be able to check if the cabinet was opened and when. What’s more, thanks to smart rules you can get creative with the way you remind them to take their medicines! For example, you can set the smart light in the kitchen to turn a different color when it’s time for the night pills, and not to return to its original color until the sensor in the medicine cabinet detects the door opening.
4. Ensure they are safe with smart safety sensors
Smoke, CO2 and water detectors will add an extra safety measure which could even become a life-saver in certain situations. Suppose your elderly parent forgets to turn the stove off while cooking or heating food up, and something starts to burn. You will receive an immediate alert on your smartphone, allowing you to react on the spot and prevent any serious damage. Likewise, with a smart thermostat you’ll be able to make sure the house is never too hot or too cold. This is not only a matter of comfort and convenience, as seniors are very sensitive to temperature changes, so on cold winter days forgetting to turn on the heat could put their health at health .
5. Use cameras to keep them safe while ensuring their privacy
Although some people may find it intrusive to have a connected camera in their home, there is no doubt that it is a very useful tool to take care of seniors as it allows you to check in on them at real time. For example, you can create a rule for the camera to send real-time video when any of the sensors detects an anomaly in the house, such as smoke in the kitchen. Also, if you can’t get in touch with your parents, you can turn on the camera and make sure they are well and haven’t perhaps fallen and are unable to answer the phone.
Beyond panic buttons, smart home technology is also useful in providing a helping hand for those taking care of seniors. It does not only offer peace of mind for everyone involved, both the caregiver and the elderly person, but can also become a life-saver in situations when time becomes a life or death matter, such as in the case of a fall, injury or accident, where a quick response is essential. Smart homes are helping enhance the quality of life both for seniors and caregivers, helping seniors remain at home and stay independent for as long as possible.
Rafi Zauer is Head of Marketing at Essence, providers of intelligent end-to-end IoT platforms for service providers offering home security, automation and senior care services. http://www.essence-grp.com