For a few years now Homebuttons has been offering a variety of medical alert solutions along with other electronic products to help with independent living. With the emphasis on service, it’s always my approach to meet with the client to explain the variety of solutions available at no obligation, so that they can choose the best fit for their needs. I’ve found that, more often than not, the need is perceived by the caregivers rather than the vulnerable seniors that they love. I realized that my focus needs to be on reducing the anxiety of the caregivers.
In conversation with concerned caregivers I learned that the simple medical alert doesn’t go far enough in allaying their fears. Often the person who needs it will refuse to wear it, leaving it on a bedside table, and it isn’t there when they need it. There is also the possibility that the person will faint or otherwise be unable to push the button. In the case of some seniors they may become disoriented by the trauma of a fall. So the concerned caregiver is compelled to phone them several times per day to ensure that they are safe and sound. What is needed is system that will allow the distant caregiver to monitor the daily well-being of their loved one without an intrusion upon their privacy and without requiring any action on the part of the loved one.
Early in 2014 I met with Tom and Tracey Dufton to talk to them about Tom’s parents. Tom and Tracey live in Port Elgin while his parents remained in the family home in Wiarton. With each year the parents have become more vulnerable and attempts to convince them that some sort of alert should be considered were rebuffed. Tom and Tracey also worried that Tom’s parents weren’t telling them every time there was an incident because they were afraid that it might cause them to start talking about giving up the family home and moving to a care facility. We talked about a system that would provide an umbrella of security and keep Tom and Tracey informed, but would not be intrusive. I can easily provide cameras that can be viewed from any computer via the Internet but that would entail prying eyes on their parents’ private home, and would only let them know that there was a problem if they undertook to check the cameras constantly. I explained that I was trying to find or create a system that worked like a security system turned inward, to track the daily activities of the residents without actually spying on them.
AN AGING AT HOME SOLUTION IS FOUND
It was mid-way through the year before I discovered Care Link Advantage, the system that answered the needs we had been discussing. It has been developed by Northern Communications in Sudbury, primarily in response to President John Whitehead’s concerns about his own mother. The solution he developed combines wireless security sensors with a panel that communicates by way of cell phone networks, and programming that responds intelligently to activities with well-defined notifications sent to the caregiver when something was amiss. Each system can be customized to reflect a specific situation, both in the quantity and placement of sensors and in the type of activities that send an alert. It can be augmented by a medical alert button or, if necessary, strategically placed cameras that can, for example, be activated if the front door is opened in the middle of the night. It includes options for a medical stand with a built-in camera so that the caregivers can be assured that the loved ones are taking the right medication at the right time. It can also include smoke and gas alarms or other safety features that are part of a typical security system. After a few months of negotiation with Northern Communications, Homebuttons became the first authorized dealer in this area and completed on-site training at their Sudbury head office.
Not long afterward, Tom and Tracey contacted me to let me know that the situation had changed. Tom’s mom had passed away and his dad was now living alone. Within a week of her passing, he fell in the night and, with no way to call for help, he lay helpless on the floor for five hours before he was discovered. Finally he agreed that some sort of monitoring was required.
I met with Tom and Tracey and his father Jim and Jim’s home to tell them all about the Care Link Advantage system. We set up a system of motion sensors, door contacts, and chair and bed sensors that would allow them to see, at any Internet connected device, that Jim was going through his daily activities without problems. We added a medical alert bracelet as well so he could call for immediate help if required. We set up the programming so that if there was something very unusual, Tom and Tracey would be alerted. Options included alerts by e-mail or telephone. They chose one type for non-essential alerts and another for more urgent cases. The medical alert button would automatically bring a response from the monitoring station which would also inform Tom and Tracey.
Jim did have to use the alert button once when he fell and couldn’t get up. The monitoring station notified Tom and Tracey immediately and first responders were dispatched. Another time Jim fell again but didn’t want to raise an alarm so he didn’t push the button. But Tom and Tracey were notified that there was no activity when there should have been so they were able to call one of Jim’s neighbours to go around and check on him. When they did, they were able to help him up without incident.
The Care Link Advantage system resolved the anxieties of Tom and Tracey while assuring that Jim had the freedom of living independently but was still safe.