There are new challenges to meet for family systems with loved ones who are most vulnerable to the coronavirus yet still require caregiving. Family caregivers that use to aid their family directly, now find themselves learning how to be long-distance providers during this pandemic. US News reports that before the coronavirus, thirteen percent of Americans provided long-distance care. The new reality is that all family caregivers must employ protocols that maintain social distancing to protect their loved ones.
The best way to stay close from far away with ease is to employ technology in your parent’s home, making wellness checks, or using camera monitoring if they are particularly frail. Many homes are already fully alarmed with cameras and motion detectors inside and out. Sharing access codes will allow a family caregiver to visually check-in and ensure all is well. As access codes can be changed, a parent can know if the future permits, they can reassert their independence by simply changing their code. Camera systems are an incredibly valuable tool in the event you cannot reach your parent by phone.
In the absence of cameras previously installed in the care recipient’s home, solutions such as Briocare or LifePod remotely address a senior’s quality of life. Both of these solutions meet the needs of self-care, independence, and safety while allowing access to you, the remote caregiver. Briocare employs Amazon’s virtual assistant technology (smart speaker) by overlaying their mobile application (app) with customized care subgroups like dementia care, diabetes care, hypertension care, and general wellness.
Daily routines can be set, including medication reminders, family calls, emergency calls and alerts, medical device integration, and entertainment activities. Similarly, LifePod uses the capabilities of smart speakers for family caregivers to configure reminders and remotely check in with their loved ones. Telemedicine interactions with their physicians are also possible using a smart speaker. A remote appointment can provide much-needed assurance, prescription dosage changes, or determination that, despite the pandemic, medical intervention is required. Smart speaker voice-activated technology that is appropriately configured to meet your parent’s specific needs is a lifeline between remote family caregivers and their loved ones.
Beyond organizing daily activities, medical needs, and monitoring the safety of your at-home senior, there are other essential needs to address like food and finances. Restaurant food delivery services are readily available in all but the most rural of locations to provide prepared meals to your senior’s doorstep. Restaurants must meet strict guidelines for food preparation and handling to ensure safety during the coronavirus. Meanwhile, at the grocery store, personal shopping assistants can gather all the food and pharmacy needs on your list for delivery to your parent’s home.
Check with the local stores your parent prefers for instructions on how to get home delivery or check out instacart, an online food shopping service provider, that in some areas can deliver groceries in as little as an hour. Fully one-third of family caregivers are now millennials who have a comfort level leveraging technology to simplify caregiving to their family. If you are a baby boomer and are unsure about using these online food services, enlist the help of your children or a trusted friend who is comfortable with technology.
An Amazon Prime account can send packaged food goods and even connect a user to Whole Foods Market for fresh meat, fish, and produce shopping. Tips on how to save money and expeditiously choose and use food products are outlined on these sites. Read through the information provided on the website as a little planning goes a long way to purchasing efficiency and proper nutrition for your care recipient.
To ensure your parent’s finances are in good order, again turn to technology. During this pandemic, many older people are rightly experiencing a lot of fear as they are primary targets of the new scams associated with the coronavirus. Even if you have never checked on your parent’s finances before, now is an excellent time to have a look. Check for unusual activity in credit card balances or credit score data. Seniors tend to accumulate many and varied account types such as investment accounts, credit and debit card accounts, business entities, real estate, and more. If you feel out of your depth in overseeing their finances, implement some online financial services.
Individualized shared platforms like EverSafe and Onist monitor all types of financial accounts and provide simple tools that let you organize, analyze, and track your loved one’s finances all in one place. Each program is customizable to grant access to family members and even financial professionals if managing monies is not your expertise. Artificial intelligence tools are designed for oversite, identifying account anomalies like unusual withdrawals, missing deposits, changes in spending habits, and will provide suspicious activity alerts to your email, text, or phone. Look for platforms with highly secure 2048-bit encryption to ensure online security.
There are many practical considerations to address when caregiving remotely for your family loved one, but using technology can solve most of them quite easily. While nothing can replace human contact, the basics of care for your parent are within reach because of the digital age.
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Patrick Kelleher is an author and Estate Planning & Elder Law attorney and founder of the elder law care learning center in Hanover, Massachusetts. Patrick has been teaching free educational workshops for over 10 years at his learning center and surrounding communities. Learn more at elderlawcare.com or follow Patrick Kelleher on Facebook because you will learn a lot! Offices in Hanover and Quincy. You can find Patrick’s new book “How to Avoid the Four Headed Monster” of Estate Planning & Elder Law on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/How-Avoid-Four-Headed-Monster-Financial-ebook/dp/B084MB96SK
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