UPDATED AUGUST 2021
Caregivers walk a fine line when they monitor elderly parents who are living alone. When the time comes, you want to strike a balance that allows your parents to age in familiar, comfortable surroundings where they don’t feel monitored. That way, they can maintain their pride and dignity as they enter their later years.
Coincidentally, these monitoring tips will also help you strike a balance between caregiving and keeping up with your busy life.
Best Practices for Monitoring Elderly Parents Living Alone
Before choosing an elderly monitoring system, start with the human touch. Check in with your parents regularly and encourage others to do the same. As you do so, watch for any cognitive issues. You’ll know when it’s time to step up the monitoring and incrementally add more to your program.
Start with low-tech monitoring solutions — or non-invasive high-tech ones. Your parents might already be controlling some settings, such as lights and temperature, through smartphone apps. If not, put the infrastructure in place so that you can control those later.
Low-Tech Monitoring Solutions
Make liberal use of labels, sticky notes, and other tools to communicate with and support elderly parents when you’re not around. You can:
- Label light switches, especially banks of two or more. When unlabelled, these can prove frustrating.
- Add labels to remote controls by appliance and room. Your parents might have several cable or ceiling fan remote controls that look alike but only work on one appliance.
- Install night-lights that turn on when it gets dark to help guard against falls.
- Get a teakettle with a loud whistle, so they know when it’s ready.
- If tubs and sinks do not have an overflow, install new ones with overflows to avoid flooding.
Non-Invasive High-Tech Monitoring Solutions
You’ll find a number of innovations and activities that will help monitor your elderly parents living alone without invading their privacy. For a full list of low-tech and high-tech solutions, visit ThisCaringHome.org.
If you’re a technology buff, the following comprehensive approach can help your parents age in place safely, even if they have diminished cognitive abilities:
- Install anti-scald faucets for the bathroom and kitchen if you can’t control the water heater remotely.
- Turn up beepers on the refrigerator door, the microwave, the oven, the washing machine, and other such devices so that your parents can hear them.
- Install a stove turn-off sensor that turns off the stove top burners when they’ve been left unattended for a set period.
- Install under-hood automatic fire extinguishers for the stove top.
- Download mobile apps for your parents that can make life easier for them. These can assist with everything from finding their car to helping them fall asleep at night.
Other Monitoring Systems to Consider for Elderly Parents
Caring for elderly parents can be a challenge with a full-time job and a busy lifestyle. This is especially true for those who require more care than others, such as those suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s. These conditions can increase the risk of falling and other accidents.
That’s where high-tech monitoring solutions can provide you with peace of mind while maintaining your parent’s safety and privacy. These include:
- GPS Tracker: A GPS tracker, like our GoSafe 2, will let you know the location of your elderly parent. This is particularly useful for those with dementia or Alzheimer’s. It can be easily attached to their clothes, keys or worn as a bracelet or pendant. It will give you notifications if they travel too far from home and will allow you to easily locate them.
- Fall Detection Systems: Fall and medical alert systems can give assurance, especially if your parent has an increased risk of falling.
- Baby Monitors: Baby monitors are especially useful for those with dementia. It offers two-way audio, allowing you to speak to your parent while at school or work.
- Movement Sensors: Movement sensors have a variety of uses. They can be installed on doors, rugs, beds, or any other area where you want to monitor movement. They can be especially convenient for parents who suffer from any cognitive issues, as you can install them on the front door to ensure they don’t leave home late at night.
There are also many wired devices available, which can respond to situations around your elderly parent’s home. These may send a voice reminder, adjust the lighting or temperature, turn off water that may soon overflow, or alert you to a problem via an app.
Let’s face it though – it’s impractical and invasive to add remote home monitoring systems and cameras to watch every minute of the day. Instead, you can support your parents by giving them a medical alert system. This will monitor them when they need it, help them get support, and show that you care.