The Marriage of Technology and Alzheimer’s Caregiving: Staying Safely at Home Longer
By Attorney Rick Law, managing partner at the Estate Planning Center of Law Elder Law in West Suburban Chicagoland. The Oaks, a United Methodist Continuous Care Retirement Community, is located in Orangeburg, near Charleston, South Carolina. What attracted us was the exciting work being done there to give people diagnosed with dementia the ability to live at home with dignity while providing peace of mind for family members and caregivers. The Oaks provides traditional senior services and care combined with a look to the future, recognizing that there is extraordinary pressure to move long-term care from the institutional facility back into the community. The visionary leader of the Oaks is the Rev. James McGee, CEO. When we met with him and Stacie Pierce, director of the technology/caregiving solution program called Live at Home Technologies, they had recently returned from meeting with IT wizards in Israel. The purpose of their trip was further their research, development, and implementation of innovative technologies that will provide remote in-home care for people affected by dementia. Some of the activities monitored include motion of an individual or lack of motion, bed and chair activities, medication access, patterns of movement through the home, daily body weight, daily blood pressure and blood glucose, time spent in the bathroom, the opening and closing of interior and exterior doors, and appliance usage. I asked Stacie to tell us about how technology is helping seniors live at home longer, and here’s what she said: “This is something I’m passionate about. I’m a caregiver first and foremost. We take care of people, and we use technology to enhance that care so that when they’re not safe anymore, they understand what their other choices are. There are more than 70 million baby boomers about to hit the market. We need to have choices available. When you talk about Alzheimer’s, it’s an epidemic, and people are living longer and the disease is being diagnosed earlier. Technology gives people more living options. We help people live at home with the support of honest and reliable family members who live nearby. One family lives 90 minutes from our facility. The daughter-in-law and son-in-law live about 500 yards away from the two disabled family members. The father has Alzheimer’s and his daughter, who lives with him, is 62. The daughter is developmentally delayed and has an IQ equivalent to a three- or four-year-old. The wife recently died of a massive heart attack, most likely due to caregiver fatigue. She had been taking care of both her husband with Alzheimer’s and her disabled 62-year-old daughter. So now you have a family who is asking, what can we do? The man was born in this house and the daughter was raised there. They have been a part of each other’s lives for 62 years, and they have their patterns. If we separate them, she’ll go to an institution and he’ll go to assisted living or a nursing home, and they’ll both probably die much sooner. We examined their living patterns. We worked with the family to figure out what the rules will be. He still likes to go out and get the mail. They live on a busy road, so we put a door sensor on the door. Then I started thinking – if he leaves the door open, how am I going to know if he came back in? So I put a floor mat down on the inside. So if he opens the door and there’s no pressure on the floor sensor within 20 minutes, then I know he didn’t come back in. We’ve had that system in place for three years now. Anytime an alert is sent out, it goes to one of the other family members who live nearby. The daughter had a history of falling in the bathtub. So we established a rule that if there’s pressure on a mat in the bathroom for more than 30 minutes, then an alert is sent to one of the family members. We can set it up so that an alert goes to one of the family members, on their cell phone or their computer, and then they can connect to the house, turn on the camera inside, and actually view to see if someone is on the floor. We here at the Oaks do not have access to the cameras—only family members do. You can’t have technology without some sort of caregivers, as well. Nonetheless, the technology can make the caregiver’s life more livable. Otherwise there’s a much higher likelihood that the caregiver will die before the person being cared for. I met with a man yesterday who’s in his mid-80s and still an active businessman. His wife has Alzheimer’s and he needs help with care. He says, “I still enjoy my work. I have to go out of town to do business. I can’t take care of my wife 24/7.” He wants to have a solution so his wife can continue to live at home and to provide the family with some sanity at the same time. We can put in a system that will allow him to go out and play poker and still keep his wife safe by providing alerts to him or other caregivers. Most people don’t even know that these types of solutions are available. I have been certified as an assistive technology practitioner and an aging-in-place specialist. This type of training allows us to work with homebuilders and remodelers to design appropriate systems within residences.” Too many families needlessly lose everything they have. Don’t let that be you. If you need help paying the overwhelming cost of long term care, give our office a call at 800-310-3100. Your first consultation is absolutely free. We’ll let you know what steps you need to take, right now, to protect yourself and your family. Call now, because when you’re out of money, you’re out of options! Sincerely, Rick L. Law, Attorney, Estate Planner for Retirees. Rick was named the #1 Illinois elder law estate planning attorney by Leading Lawyer Magazine. He has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, AARP Magazine, TheStreet.com, and numerous newspapers and articles. Rick is the lead attorney for Law Elder Law, LLP, focusing in Estate Planning, Guardianship, and Nursing Home Solutions. His goal is to give retirees an informed edge when it comes to dealing with an uncertain future. Get flexible retirement strategies that work during good times and bad, plus information on how you can save your home and assets from being used to pay for long term care. Call 800-310-3100 for your free consultation now!