When we’re young we imagine old age, if we think of it at all, as a time of well-deserved rest, enjoying memories and the rewards of a long life well lived. In reality it turns out that way only for a lucky few.
If it’s hard for those who are growing old, it is an equally difficult time for their middle-aged children. Many in this stage of life find that the new liberation of being empty-nesters is all too quickly replaced by being informal round-the-clock caregiver for Mom or Dad. It’s those caught in this position that face the most difficult decisions.
While it’s easy to understand your parents’ wishes to remain at home you can’t ignore the dangers inherent in their loss of capabilities, particularly freedom of movement, memory, healthy sleeping and eating.
How can you relax not knowing if they are safe? Who will be there to respond to an emergency in the night? What if they wander off, or fall and knock themselves out?
You want the best for your parents and you want them to be happy for the remainder of their days, but how do you work around this paradox?
The first thing most people will reach out for in this situation is a Personal Emergency Response System, known as PERS. Most commonly, this is in the form of the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” button. While this system is ideal for the person living alone who may have some mobility issues but is otherwise on top of their game, it leaves a few gaps when they become less self-sufficient. It goes just halfway in allaying your concerns. While you know it is monitored and can be relied upon to respond when an alarm is triggered, will your parent have the presence of mind to properly trigger it? While for years I’ve provided the Helpline PERS system to rental clients, I’ve encountered many caring children who are looking for something more for their parents. It becomes especially important if the parent either objects to wearing an emergency button, or forgets how to use it.
In 2014, I went looking for a system that could provide give caregivers a more reassuring picture, providing protection and monitoring in a way that was unobtrusive yet comprehensive. I found it in Sudbury, Ontario, in a unique system called Carelink Advantage.
I went to meet with the people there and found exactly the system I was looking for. No other system, large or small, gives the same degree of customized caregiver access while allowing the resident to go about their business without having a responsibility to remember.
John Whitehead, President and CEO of Northern Communications, a family-owned business serving Sudbury since 1954, used his knowledge of security systems, the Alarm.com platform, and his own personal experience, to create Carelink Advantage, a unique solution for those aging at home and their caregivers.
Carelink Advantage was initially designed specifically to address the situation with his mother, developing cognitive problems while living alone. “When I choose to,” John says, “I can monitor her daily actions to make certain all is well. But even better than this ability, is the fact that if something ‘is not right’ with my mother, the system will reach out right away to myself and my other siblings, no matter where we are! The system is completely passive and does not require my Mom to be aware of the problem, nor take any actions whatsoever to have the system call for help. She just continues to live her life as though the system was not even there. I can’t begin to tell you the peace of mind that this gives my siblings and I. CareLink Advantage is helping to keep her safe at home, while reducing our stress and burnout.”
Since my initial visit to Northern Communications, I’ve worked with Gord Turner to design and implement custom solutions, and with Andrea Miller to bring the Helpline personal alarm into people’s homes on a no-contract rental basis. Whether they are dealing with me or with my customers they radiate a warmth, caring, and attention to detail that matches what I strive for myself.
Most people rightly see the personal alarm as a temporary measure, as the day will inevitably come when it is no longer enough for Mom or Dad. That’s why rental makes more sense than a purchase. Rental on a pushbutton system usually runs around $50 per month for something as simple as the button-to-monitoring connection. Adding about $75 to that cost transforms a pushbutton that must be activated by the resident into a system that will give every stakeholder caregiver a special tool to enhance care and safety. The sensors track movement so when they are strategically placed they can give you a comprehensive picture of your parent’s movements, right now at this moment, or up to 60 days in the past. The system is monitoring and recording 24 hours a day.
The Carelink Advantage system is not meant to replace personal care workers. What it does do is give family members (and selected personal care workers) deep insight into the resident’s well-being on a real-time basis around the clock. And while it allows for diligent monitoring by a family member it also allows for a family member to relax, knowing that the specially formulated notification rules will immediately inform them if anything unusual occurs.
We all struggle to find the best balance when it comes to aging parents. They often think themselves more capable than they are, and we don’t want to offend them. They are hesitant to spend their savings, feeling that they are stealing the inheritance from their children. Too often, placing a parent in a seniors’ home feels like some kind of betrayal and it can generate conflict within the family. And that doesn’t even allow for the cost.
According to the CMHC’s Senior Housing Report, in 2018, the average cost of renting a seniors’ housing space in Ontario was $3,038 per month. That’s more than twenty times the cost of a Carelink System that allows them to live a little longer at home.
Although it can extend the time at home, the average duration of a personal alert rental contract is about two years before the family feels it’s time to step up to a residential solution. The cost of a Carelink Advantage system, for the entirety of those two years, is just a few dollars away from the cost of one month in a seniors’ home. It not only means a happier outcome but a savings as well.
Everyone faces their own issues as they age. There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to their care. That’s why the Carelink System, with its ability to be tailored and tweaked to reflect the habits of the resident as well as the concerns of the caregivers, provides a stay-at-home solution that is the most flexible in terms of monitoring and reporting.