Seniors around the world and here in India are moving into care facilities too soon.
With new technology and compassion, we can help extend senior living at home and keep elderly safe at home.
This means staying in familiar surroundings, hanging out with familiar people, savoring life-important memories. Do you know that if we reach the age of 85, there is a one in three chance that we’ll live in a care facility?
Last May, I was visiting Mom during Mother’s Day weekend, and right before dinner, we were sitting right around a little table, reminiscing through old photos.
Mom says to me, “Wow, look how much I look like Grandma!” And Mom is right, she does look like Grandma.
Who do you look like? Your mom? Your dad? What about 30 years from now? Who will you look like? Looking at Grandma’s eyes, I am her favorite grandson.
I am her favorite grandson! Grandma is wearing her grey top and pants, with that yellow umbrella she is using as a walking stick.
I have to slow down; she cannot keep up. That day, Grandma is cooking for the family, and I know she is going to cook my favorite food.
That day Grandma doesn’t eat much. Her eyes sparkle as she watches me devour all the spot prawns that she cooked.
Grandma was very close to me and a big part of my life. I stayed in India for university and work. Grandma in another part of eastern India – uneven wooden floors, narrow stairways, and forgetting to lock the front door.
Grandma’s home is becoming more dangerous with each birthday. I imagine an environment that is appropriate for my grandma. One Sunday afternoon, I heard a loud thud in the bathroom where she slipped and I instantly realize that I could have prevented this.
She was rushed to a hospital and was not medically stable to move for a very long time.
I never want this to happen to you or your loved ones. Making the decision of moving family and our loved ones into a care facility can be really tough. It can generate heated debate and argument. When is the right time? What is the right thing to do? To stay or not to stay at home, that is the question.
What can we do to prevent the premature placement of our family into a care facility, to prevent losses, and to add life at home?
Society is starting to call this move “warehousing of seniors.” Not a pretty term at all, if you imagine our family being packaged into warehouse containers and then the door slammed shut.
You and I do not need to warehouse family that we love or that one in three chance that we may get warehoused ourselves. Take heart, there is hope.
I’m telling you that, today, we can implement technology to do two things: to increase safety and increase socialization. And, immediately, I think about my mom. “Mom, that doormat in the front entrance has to go.” “But, son, you don’t understand.
That doormat is beautiful, it cost a lot of money, and you can’t buy it anywhere else.” “Well, Mom, if you want to stay longer at home, that doormat is going. It’s a tripping hazard, and you can fall on it. A fall can have serious consequences.
Besides, if you like it so much, hang it up on a wall.” Doormat is gone!
Well, to the wall. And likewise, we walk around Mom’s home removing all the decorative tables. Mom used to bang her knees against the tables – another tripping hazard for a fall. They are gone.
Mom’s home has carpeted floor, which is really nice keeping her feet warm and softening the impact of a fall.
But deep carpet makes it difficult to move a walker around if she needs one. So we decided to change the carpeted floor into the hardwood floor, ideally with warm, anti-slip footwear and is easier for her to move a walker in case she needs one in the future.
And then, into the bathroom. We want to make sure that the toilet seat is high enough and that there are grab bars there for support so that Mom doesn’t fall while sitting down in the bathroom.
Take action now. Prevent falls. Read my entire article on how to set up a safe bathroom for the elderly here.
Do you know that falls are the most common cause of injuries in seniors? And every year, on average, three out of ten seniors would fall accidentally.
A slight fall may result in a fracture, creating disability and loss of independence. Take action now.
Make your home safe. Safety is the most important consideration for extending senior living at home. Talking about safety, do you know someone who is forgetful?
Do you know someone who puts salt instead of sugar in baking that apple pie? Do you know someone who leaves the burner on until the pot is burned? And do you know someone who puts laundry detergent into the dishwasher?
And I don’t count the time when you do it after a few drinks on a Friday night. I am committed to watching out for the warning signs of dementia. I can tell you that seniors with mild or early dementia can still live in the community.
They can still live at home without moving into a care facility. What they need is a smartphone, one that has a GPS function, so that you can use an app on your smartphone to locate them.
And you can use the same smartphone to make sure their front door is locked at night and their home appliances are turned off at night – all made possible by connecting home devices via the Internet of Things, or IoT.
And I know that all of us should be more patient, walking through seniors how to use each of the apps on their smartphone when their memory is still good, so that they won’t send us an entire email in that subject line box! Or they won’t send us a text message that contains a bunch of emoticons that are completely unrelated. Or they won’t keep screaming at you on FaceTime: “Can you hear me? Can you hear me?” “Yes, I can hear you.”
I also think about socialization. It can extend senior living by adding images, conversations, and connections. Do you know that loneliness is the new smoking?
Loneliness can have harmful effects on our health, just like smoking 15 cigarettes a day, shaving 8 years off our life.
Socialization can overcome loneliness and can improve health. I used to think differently about social media. I used to think that it is a waste of time.
But now I am connected with my loved ones on Facebook, on Instagram, on WhatsApp, and on Skype. Do you know that the number of seniors over 75 on social media has doubled in the last year?
I am convinced that getting seniors into the digital age as early as possible is the way to go. Embrace technology before it is too late.
Now, a face-to-face connection is still important because technology cannot replace a real hug.
For my loved ones, as they grow older, to stay or not to stay at home, that is the question. When it is the right time, do the right thing.
There is going to be a time when moving into a care facility can be the right thing to do. For example, when you can no longer walk or transfer independently; when you are losing your urine or bowel all the time; when you are so frail, and your family is totally burned out; when you keep dropping your smartphone into the toilet bow …
OK, I don’t count that. But, these are tough times, and it takes courage, the courage to get help early from community services There are many things that all of us can do, really, to extend senior living at home.
In particular, use technology to increase safety and to increase socialization. My invitation for you, my challenge for you, is to think of one way, one way that you can use technology and your compassion to extend senior living at home, so that they can be in familiar surroundings, hanging out with familiar people, savoring familiar memories.
Act before it is too late. Do it for yourself or someone you know, or your parent, or your grandma.