Tips on Caring for Aging Parents
“Family members can go in and see what mom’s heart rate was today,” Bevis says. “If mom or dad would fall, their chance of survival drops dramatically if they’re not found within the first few hours. The New England Journal of Medicine released a study that was done two years ago that was pretty eye-opening in that regard. The personal emergency response systems can be a lifesaver.”
Somers said seniors can wear bands that monitor the body’s rhythms and movements throughout the day and will detect if a typical pattern has been disrupted and issue an alert if activity is unusual.
Keeping Grandma as Close as Your Own Backyard, Literally
Other modern innovations include the MEDCottage, also known as “the Granny pod.” A tricked-out tree house for the elderly, the 284-square-foot structure features many of the bells and whistles of a nursing home — including rubber flooring — but sits in a caregiver’s backyard and, with its own kitchen and bathroom, runs off the main residence’s power and water supply.
The idea came to Salem, Va.-based Rev. Ken Dupin, as he was working on his Ph.D. Though he didn’t complete his dissertation, Dupin ran with the idea and is currently chief executive officer of N2Care, maker of MEDCottage.
“Our whole focus is to promote family-managed care,” Dupin says. “We’re all about putting the family back into this stage of life and as we researched it, there didn’t seem to be a lot of good options as the one we came up with.”
After seven years in development, the first residential MEDCottage was placed in Fairfax, Va. last month.
“What’s unique is we have a created a dashboard that gives the caregiver access to literally every part of the MEDCottage including the ability to track blood pressure, heart rate, weight, temperature, glucose and all those things, as well as the structure itself,” Dupin explains.
The cyber-chic shanty also includes something called “Feet Sweep,” a camera system that monitors 12 inches off the floor in case a loved one has fallen. A caregiver can also remotely check in to see whether or not the elder has taken his or her medication.
So how much does this high-tech hideaway cost? Dupin explains that the original model runs about $85,000 but distributors are coming out with new offerings that are “not nearly as fancy” and will be priced in the neighborhood of $50,000.
Another advantage, Dupin points out, is that unlike a nursing home or an assisted living facility, MEDCottage is an asset.
“The distributor will purchase it back after a year or two years at a negotiated price,” he says. “Everything the MEDCottage does is to promote family-managed care. There are no subscription fees or monitoring services, everything goes back to the family.”
Competition is popping up for this modern alternative to the mother-in-law suite, Dupin says, as two modular home manufacturers have come out with their own versions.
Nationwide Home has the Care Cottage and Clayton, a Berkshire Hathaway company, has come out with something called the iHouse.
“Definitely there is a horizon for this concept,” Dupin says.
Another hurdle baby boomers have to overcome is the suddenness of the need for care.
“Three days ago Dad was golfing and today he’s in the hospital because last night he had a stroke and he’s incapacitated,” says Hogan of Home Instead. “They never had the conversation or took the time to discuss what Dad’s preferences were for care so therefore this creates a huge amount of guesswork for that primary family caregiver.”
To combat this, Hogan devised the “40-70 Rule” aimed at bridging the communication gap between generations and fostering discussions — when one is their 40s and the other is their 70s — about how, when and where aging parents wish to receive care. Hogan said these issues are often so uncomfortable and overwhelming that he felt compelled to author a booklet, designed to help struggling caregivers.
Even with technological advancements, providing for the health and safety of aging parents is no small task. Having that conversation earlier and before a crisis occurs can make growing old gracefully a bit more manageable for everyone involved.