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 place in familiar, comfortable surroundings where they don’t feel monitored, so that 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 you wire the place like Food Network’s Mystery Diners wires restaurants, 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 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.
Start low-tech — Kiplinger suggests making liberal use of labels, sticky notes, and other tools as suggested below:
- Label light switches, especially banks of two or more, which when unlabeled can prove frustrating.
- Label 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.
- If tubs and sinks do not have an overflow, install new ones with overflows to avoid flooding.
Non-Invasive High-Tech Solutions
You’ll find a number of innovations that don’t look like they’re monitoring people or activities that will help you monitor your elderly parents living alone. 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, from helping them find their car to helping them fall asleep at night.
The Smart Home
The term “smart home” refers to a house that’s wired for connectivity. Each wired device responds to a situation by sending a voice reminder to the senior, adjusting the lighting or temperature, turning off water that may soon overflow in a sink or toilet, or alerting you to a problem via a smartphone app. Let’s face it, though — it’s impractical and invasive to try to wire the entire house and monitor cameras remotely every minute of the day. Instead, you can help support your parents by giving them a medical alert system, which will monitor them when they need it but also says, “I care.”