Do you remember those lamps that you could turn off and on by clapping your hands? They were intended to make life easier, and while marketed to everyone, they were especially helpful to older adults. Well, technology has advanced beyond hand-clapping lamps to using voice and apps to control virtually every device in our homes.
Many sons and daughters are looking for creative solutions to support their aging mom and/or dad, and smart home technology is one of these creative solutions.
So, what exactly is a smart home?
It is a home that has everything from appliances, lighting, heating, air conditioning, entertainment systems, computers, security, and camera systems that can:
- Communicate with one another
- Be controlled remotely by a time schedule, from any room in the home OR
- Be controlled remotely from anywhere in the world by phone or internet
Do you have any nagging worries about your mom and/or dad and how they are managing in their home? Do you ever worry about them falling? Forgetting to lock the door? If financial scammers come to their door? Or, forgetting to turn off the oven or other appliances like the coffee maker? Would you like to make life easier for your parents by being able to program their favourite television program from YOUR living room or have them use voice commands to control devices?
Do you remember those flashing VCRs that remained unprogrammed until you visited your parents and could reset the programming? You may not, but the point is, technology in the home is not new and it is not new to older adults either. It has never been just the domain of the young. In fact, Internet usage is growing fastest among older Canadians. The learning curve isn’t nearly as steep as it used to be because technology has become more intuitive and easier to use. What could be easier than a voice command?
Here are some features of a smart home package that can benefit you and your parent(s).
These features may be all new to you and to your mom and/or dad or they may be ‘old news’. Either way, we have come quite a long way from clapping our hands to turn a lamp on or off! Most of these features work in the home itself and can be controlled remotely.
Security and safety
Imagine if you could remotely lock the door, or your parents and you could see who was at the door via a doorbell camera. Imagine a motion sensor that turns on the light as someone walks into a hallway, decreasing the likelihood of a fall. Falls often lead to hospitalizations and they are more likely to happen at night when there is a combination of poorer vision and low lighting. It is important to note here that motion sensors are not cameras. This isn’t about you becoming an amateur spy!
Convenience and comfort
We are referring here to features that allow you to control the temperature (like a smart thermostat),
lights, and even turn the oven on or off or start the coffee maker in the morning! While it isn’t hard to turn the coffee maker on, it sure is sweet to wake up to the smell of a fresh brew.
Personal health and wellness
Smart devices can do things such as track sleep cycles. This information can be helpful to health care professionals (say for example, if there has been a medication change that is linked to a change in sleeping patterns) and to self-monitor (“ahh, I see that I didn’t sleep well the night I had a coffee in the afternoon”).
The purpose – from a caregiver’s perspective
The bottom line for you as a caregiver is that the many options of a smart home can prevent problems and/or alert you should a problem arise. You may already be familiar with some smart home features but haven’t thought about how this technology can help you in your caregiving role. You may not be able to completely eliminate worry, but these technological advancements can sure assist in giving you some peace of mind.
You will need to have a conversation about privacy and dignity and how smart home features are not about spying. Your parents are not likely keen on becoming your latest ‘reality’ show, and this is likely not something you are keen about either. Smart home technology can serve a purpose (or many!) for you and your mom and/or dad: peace of mind, convenience, independence, safety, security, and wellness.
It is cliché to say that the world is changing quickly when it comes to technology and its impact on our lives. Why would this not include caregiving? Why shouldn’t it include caregiving? It’s just smart!
How have you taken advantage of technology to help you help your parents?