Depending on how closely you want to monitor an aging parent, and what they are comfortable with as well, there are check-in call services along with some new monitoring technology devices you can turn to for help. Here are several to consider.
If you just want a simple check to make sure your parent is OK every day, consider signing them up with a daily check-in call service program. These are telephone reassurance programs run by police or sheriff’s departments in hundreds of counties across the country and are usually provided free of charge.
Here’s how they work. A computer automated phone system would call your parent at a designated time each day to check-in. If they answer, the system would assume everything is OK. But if they don’t answer or if the call goes to voice mail after repeated tries, you (or their other designee) would get a notification call. If you are not reachable, calls are then made to backup people who’ve also agreed to check on your parent if necessary.
The fallback is if no one can be reached, the police or other emergency services personnel will be dispatched to her home.
To find out if this service is available in your parent’s community, call their local police department’s nonemergency number.
If the police or sheriff’s department in your parent’s community doesn’t offer a check-in call program, there are organizations and companies you can turn to that offer similar services offered directly to consumers.
One that I love that’s completely free to use is Mon Ami (650-267-2474), which offers a volunteer phone bank that provides phone or video calls daily, weekly or anything in between. The volunteer will connect with your parent, provide companionship and make sure everything is OK. And, they’ll let you know if they detect a problem.
Technology also offers a variety of new ways to help you keep an eye on your parent when you can’t be there.
One nifty new option is the Electronic Caregiver’s “Premier” product, which is a wearable wrist device that provides activity monitoring, a 24/7 emergency help button, medication reminders and a GPS locator so you can determine your parent’s whereabouts when they are away from home.
It’s also linked to a family caregiver app to keep you and other loved ones in the loop. The device is free with a monthly subscription that costs $40 to $60 a month, depending on the level of monitoring.
If your parent is primarily homebound, another option to consider is a sensor-monitoring system like Caregiver Smart Solutions. This uses small sensors (not cameras) placed in key areas of your parent’s home to track their activities – everything from whether they used the coffee pot to how much they are watching TV – and will let you know if something out of the ordinary is happening. For instance, if they went to the bathroom and didn’t leave, it could indicate a fall or other emergency.
You can also check up on their patterns anytime you want through the system’s website or app. And for additional protection, it offers emergency call buttons that can be placed around the house. Caregiver Smart Solutions starts at $99 for their activity sensors, plus a $29 monthly service fee.
Jim Miller publishes the Savvy Senior, a nationally syndicated column that offers advice for Boomers and Seniors.