With National Family Caregivers Month underway for the month of November, it’s the perfect time to review some new innovative strategies for tending to the needs of elderly or disabled loved ones. Technology has stepped into the limelight by providing solutions that make caregiving more convenient and efficient. Voice recognition software and other smarthome applications have already demonstrated their value, and they’re expected to deliver further benefits in the future.
About Today’s Home Automation Tech
Home automation hardware allows for finer and easier control of all of a house’s systems from a single interface. Being able to dim the lights, turn on the heat and lock the doors from the same control panel is pretty nifty, especially for a mobility-impaired senior, but it gets even more beneficial when voice is added to the picture. Merely by speaking aloud, just as in a conversation with a human, the user can issue instructions and see the appropriate devices do his or her bidding without the need for manual inputs.
The major problem with smarthome equipment has historically been the lack of coordination and cooperation among different manufacturers. However, this is changing because today’s voice agents can manage products developed by a variety of vendors.
Amazon’s Alexa assistant, housed within the Echo line of speakers, is expandable by third parties who can create “Skills” that extend Alexa’s capabilities. The Apple HomeKit architecture meanwhile acts as a unitary framework that enables compatibility across all supported systems and permits interaction with the firm’s Siri virtual agent. Google’s Home speakers operate along similar principles. All of these setups not only allow the user to verbalize commands, but they also talk back to him or her, so two-way conversations are possible.
How Does It Help?
This cutting-edge functionality improves quality of life both for seniors attempting to age in place as well as their caregivers. Remote video monitoring and emergency assistance pendants mean that patients aren’t left on their own if an emergency were to occur. Because these tools can respond to vocal instructions, the senior can activate them even if he or she is injured and unable to move.
Besides being useful when an unexpected event happens, voice recognition systems are also indispensable for performing routine, daily activities. Wireless doorbell cameras improve security for older people who might otherwise fall prey to home invaders or scammers. Televisions and other consumer electronic equipment can be turned on, turned off, and configured without the senior having to get up and move around. Smart lights adjust themselves based on the user’s wishes, reducing the chances of falls and injuries.
It’s perhaps the ability to understand human speech that’s the most appealing feature of these products. They can search the internet for medical information without anyone having to type in search queries, which is quite a time-saver for those with arthritis or poor vision. Medication reminders, like Reminder Rosie, help to ensure that elderly patients don’t forget to take their pills at the times of day that they should.
Especially Useful for Dementia and Alzheimer’s
Patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s experience cognitive deterioration, which can be a challenge under traditional models of caregiving. Fortunately, Amazon’s Alexa can act as basically an external memory upgrade for affected individuals. They can ask what time it is, get answers to general knowledge questions that they’re uncertain about and receive notifications at specified times of day.
Staying in touch with one’s friends and relatives has been shown to improve health outcomes for seniors who might otherwise suffer from isolation and depression. While many elderly people own cell phones, some may find them difficult to use and feel that the text shown on displays is too small to read. The Telikin computer comes with email, video chat and photo-sharing software preinstalled and ready to go without any configuration required. Keystone Connect is a cross-platform portal that lets seniors access social media, video calls and other connectivity features from a single place.
Set up Your Own Connected Home
To install a voice control system in your own home, you’ll need the right hardware to act as a hub, such as the Google Home or Amazon Echo speaker, along with compatible pieces of smarthome equipment. An internet connection is also required; otherwise, your devices won’t be able to communicate with the outside world. For more information, take a look at this article from Men’s Journal.
Caregivers have a challenging and often draining job. However, connected caregiving allows them to fulfill their duties seamlessly and with less effort while expanding the realm of what’s possible. This trend is predicted to grow in the future, and so the benefits for both caregivers and caretakers are expected to expand.
By Beth Kelly
Beth Kotz is a freelance writer and contributor for numerous home, technology, and personal finance blogs. She graduated with BA in Communications and Media from DePaul University in Chicago, IL where she continues to live and work.