Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Keep a high-tech eye on loved ones but give them space, respect

CHICAGO

Used to be, the phone or a good neighbor were the best bets for keeping tabs on someone you love who's elderly and living alone — especially if you lived too far to buzz over every day. • But more and more, a host of technological devices and Internet-based solutions is crowding the elder-care landscape, making it more convenient, and far less worrisome, to know all is well with an aging relative or friend.

We talked to gerontology nurses and gerontologists to get the lowdown on what's smart, what's dignified, and what's best avoided.

Far more important than all the high-tech gadgets in the world is the simple act of talking about it to make sure any high-tech monitoring is seen not as an invasion of privacy but rather a means of allowing a person to more safely live alone.

"Sometimes in our eagerness for safety, that whole aspect of a person's autonomy — and dignity — is being trampled," says nursing professor Margaret Bull, who specializes in elder-care issues at Marquette University in Milwaukee.

"As much as possible, match what's in that person's comfort zone," advises Dena Schulman-Green, a gerontologist at Yale University's College of Nursing, who often opts for low-tech elder-care solutions but certainly not always.

"Some older adults are very into technology, and using such devices makes them feel part of the modern world, and less of a burden to their kids."

Helping hands

Here's a list of techno-innovations, approved by nurses who spend their lives looking out for the elderly.

Skype (skype.com): This free, Internet-based two-way teleconference service tops the list for ways to keep in touch daily. For no charge, you can add a video component so you can see the person, and keep watch for changes in appearance or manner.

"That face-to-face contact is really important, especially if you're concerned about social isolation," says Lesley Boaz, a geriatric nurse practitioner and professor at Marquette's College of Nursing.

Cell phone with GPS device: Needn't be anything fancier than a flip phone that's tucked in the pocket of an elderly person, with the GPS connected to the caregiver's smart phone. That way you can track from afar, and know whether your loved one has made it to, say, the dentist's office, or somehow boarded the wrong bus.

Lotsa Helping Hands (lotsa helpinghands.com): This is a great website for anyone who's trying to coordinate a battalion of family and friends who will all be pitching in with various assignments. It's a free site, and caregivers set up a members-only community (you can invite whomever you choose). When there's a job that needs to be done, say, a ride to the doctor, or a trip to the grocery store, it's posted on the calendar and an e-mail alert goes out to all the community members.

Philips Lifeline (lifelinesys.com): One of the tried-and-true home-monitoring systems; provides basic but essential features for about $38 a month. If there's an emergency, users push the button on a necklace pendant or wristwatch, alerting the Lifeline call center. (The AutoAlert option automatically places a call if it detects a fall.) An operator talks to the client through a speakerphone device to find out what's happening. If there's no answer, the call center contacts caregivers and emergency medical services.

Don't try these, please: Tracking devices, worn around the wrist, or — worse — microchips, "it's like a dog," says Boaz, who wholly disapproves. Ditto on videocameras in the bedroom or bathroom. "Complete invasion of privacy."

In the end, she says, "Human contact is irreplaceable. I am not saying you need to move 500 miles to be close to Mom or Dad. There are other humans out there. What it takes is carefully thinking all this through."

Keep a high-tech eye on loved ones but give them space, respect 09/27/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 27, 2011 8:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Chicago Tribune.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. A historic Tampa family saves a historic Tampa home built by an ancestor

    Human Interest

    The Knight family has replaced their roof and people are celebrating.

    The Peter O. Knight historical cottage, located in Tampa's Hyde Park neighborhood, is seen Thursday, July 20, 2017. The cottage fell into disrepair in recent years, but the Knight family stepped up with financial support to help stabilize the structure.
  2. Miami woman, 74, admits to voter fraud. Does jail await, or will she go free?

    State Roundup

    MIAMI — An 74-year-old woman pleaded guilty Monday to filling out other people's mail-in ballots while working at Miami-Dade's elections department.

    Gladys Coego
  3. In Twitter rant, Bucs' Gerald McCoy says he's unappreciated

    Bucs

    Gerald McCoy is feeling underappreciated again. He says somebody has crossed the line this time. He's speaking out and suggesting he might be gone "soon enough" from Tampa Bay.

    Photo Illustration RON BORRESEN   |   Photo by LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times 
Gerald McCoy may be upset that Ronde Barber said a defensive leader “has to have a huge personality’’ like Warren Sapp’s. Monday, Barber walked that back.
  4. Bigger ships carry Georgia ports to record cargo volumes

    Economic Development

    SAVANNAH, Ga. — Bigger ships arriving through an expanded Panama Canal pushed cargo volumes at Georgia's seaports to record levels in fiscal 2017, the Georgia Ports Authority announced Monday.

    The Port of Savannah moved a record 3.85 million container units in fiscal 2017, the state said, benefiting from the larger ships that can now pass through an expanded Panama Canal.
  5. Photo gallery: Nine years later, library attack victim Queena works at learning to walk again

    Blogs

    Slowly, Queena Phu is learning the act of walking again through exercises in locomotion, strength and balance.
    She practiced her steps once again Monday afternoon with trainer-technician Mike Lopez at the nonprofit Stay In Step Spinal Cord Injury Recovery Center near the University of South Florida.
    Queena …

    Activity based exercise trainer George Palang, 33, and trainer technician Mike Lopez, 22, help Queena Phu during physical therapy at the Stay In Step Spinal Cord Injury Recovery Center on Monday, July 24, 2017, in Tampa, Fla.