Even during normal times, monitoring aging parents from afar can be difficult. But when you add the COVID-19 social distancing recommendations to help seniors stay safe, the degree of difficulty significantly increases.
However, there are some strategies for monitoring your aging parents from out of town. If they’re still living in their house, you can choose a remote monitoring system or other technology to help them age safely.
Technology for Monitoring Your Aging Parents from Afar
Traditionally, if you don’t visit your parents very often, the holidays have been a good time to see how they’re doing and if they need help. But large family gatherings may not be possible this year. To help promote peace of mind, here are some suggestions for keeping in touch.
Being able to see and connect with your aging parents through Zoom or other video programs gives you more insight into how they’re doing.
A security camera may seem like a good way to keep up with what’s going on, but you may want to give your loved one more privacy. With a TENVIS wireless camera, you’ll only see 15-second bursts of video, triggered when the 360-degree-view camera detects motion. It also offers two-way audio for real-time communication so you can instantly check in with them and if necessary call an emergency service for help.
To ensure your loved one is on top of their health management, Pria is a smart pill dispenser that alerts your family member when it’s time to take their medication. It then verifies their identity through facial recognition or a PIN before doling out their prescription. An app shows you when they took their medication and if they missed a dose. You can also use it to make two-way video calls.
The Philips Lifeline® medical alert system can be worn as a pendant or a wristband that can distinguish between falls and regular movement. The device is water-resistant with a long-lasting battery and has two-way voice communication, so your loved one can talk directly to the Philips Lifeline response team to let them know if they need help.
How to Know if Your Parents Need Care
When you’re unable to see how your parents are doing in person and have to instead rely on conversations over the phone or through a video call, here are some things to ask about and look for:
How do your parents look? Not being able to keep up with daily routines — such as bathing and brushing teeth — could indicate dementia, depression or physical impairments. Also pay attention to how their home looks. Are they keeping up with housework? Able to go shopping? Remembering to pay their bills?
There’s a difference between normal changes in memory due to aging or medication side effects and the type of memory loss that makes it hard to do things such as driving and shopping. Signs of this type of memory loss might include:
- Asking the same questions over and over again
- Getting lost in familiar places
- Not being able to follow instructions
- Becoming confused about time, people and places
- Losing weight could be related to many factors, including:
- Difficulty cooking. Your parents may not have the energy to cook; have trouble grasping pots, pants and other cooking utensils; or experience difficulty reading product labels and cooking instructions.
- Loss of taste or smell. Your loved one might not be interested in eating if food doesn’t taste or smell as good as it used to.
- Social issues. Your family member might have difficulty shopping or have financial concerns that limit buying groceries.
- Underlying conditions. Sometimes weight loss indicates a serious underlying condition, such as malnutrition, dementia, depression or cancer.
Ask your parents how they’re feeling and take note of their mood. A drastically different mood or outlook could be a sign of depression or other health concerns.
Are your parents staying connected with friends and family members through phone calls, Zoom, social media, emails or texting? Have they maintained interest in hobbies and other daily activities? If a parent gives up on being with others, it could be a sign of a problem.
Where Your Parents Live Matters
As this pandemic has gone on, everyone has learned the importance of community and social connection. If you think your loved ones could benefit from the camaraderie and engaging activities of a senior living community, now’s a good time to explore your options. Finding the right community can even help with monitoring aging parents from afar. If you’re ready to start exploring, review a few communities near you with our Where You Live Matters community finder. Or if you’re looking for ways to talk with your parents about their plans for the future, here are some suggestions.
Where You Live Matters is powered by the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA), a respected voice in the senior housing industry. ASHA primarily focuses on legislative and regulatory advocacy, research, and educational opportunities and networking for senior living executives, so they can better understand the needs of older adults across the country.