New Elder Care Technologies Make Aging-in-Place a Possibility for Many Seniors

“Getting old is not for sissies” goes the quote, and many of my clients and their families find this to be true. One of the biggest challenges with growing older is the upheaval of changing your living situation, whether due to health reasons, financial circumstances or both. Generally, long term elder care is categorized into three main categories: In-Home Care, Assisted Living and Nursing Homes. As you can imagine, In-Home Care is the most expensive, even if you don’t have a 24-hour hired care giver. Assisted Living requires that you move out of your home and into other community housing, where you still may retain limited independence, but also be under monitoring by medical staff. For many people, Nursing Homes are a last resort, since they are financially draining (averaging upwards of $83,000 a year according to the MetLife statistics from October 2010) and don’t allow for any lifestyle independence in a hospital-like atmosphere.

But now, a fourth option is becoming popular and gaining recognition in elder care: Aging-in-Place. Aging-in-place is a care option that allows you to continue living independently in your own home without the need for a live-in care giver. For many seniors suffering from memory issues or a high fall risk, this option might be impossible–if not for the these latest developments in elder care technology.

Drug compliance is the most common issue for those living alone, and can have far-reaching health consequences if not monitored correctly. For those with memory issues, there are several pill-reminder services and gadgets that can help you stay on track with taking the right medication at the right times. One of them is TabSafe, a small electric powered box of drawers that sits on your countertop and issues daily visual and audio reminder alerts to take your medication, dispenses the correct pills at the right times, and can even send a confirmation message to a caregiver once the medication has been dispensed and taken. If a dosage is missed, an alert is sent to the caregiver via phone and action can then be taken. This alternative will save caregivers from having to call their loved ones several times a day to confirm that they’ve taken their medication, and can also alleviate medication worries of the patient themselves. TabSafe retails for $1099, plus a monthly fee.

“Falling is the most common cause of hospital admissions for trauma and the leading cause of injury and death among those ages 65 and older, the CDC reports” says For those with a high fall risk, there’s the eNeighbor Remote Monitoring System from HealthSense that “uses a series of small, unobtrusive sensors that work together to monitor a resident’s daily routine. The system looks for basic activities, and establishes a normal range for these activities.” If the resident were to fall and not be able to get up or reach the phone for help, eNeighbor would notice the change in activity patten and trigger a phone call to a list of contacts (and the HealthSense 24-hour call center) that could come in to check on the resident. This way, a senior citizen can retain their independence in their own home without ever running the risk of being truly “alone” in a crisis. eNeighbor is quoted as being “about $100 a month” by the New York Times but costs can vary greatly between private health care companies.

Another offering from the world of technology is the HomMed Genesis™ DM Remote PatientCare Monitor,  useful on its own or paired with one of the first two gadgets. When you wake in the morning, you are greeted by a friendly voice saying “Good morning. It is now time to record your vital signs.” But you’re not at a clinic or doctor’s office–you’re sitting at your kitchen table in the comfort of your own home. This device measures heart rate, weight, blood pressure and oxygen level, and blood glucose levels–making it useful to patients with a variety of health concerns, from cardiovascular disease to diabetes. It also asks a series of additional relevant questions such as “Are you having more difficulty breathing today than a normal day?” that can help pinpoint a potential problem. The results are then sent to a monitoring clinic where a nurse can take action if the readings are out of the ordinary. Prices for this service vary between different private health care services, but it can save you and your loved ones hours of hassle and stress each week of shuttling around from one doctor’s office to another. Daily readings can also help you stay abreast of your own health by increasing self-monitoring.

Putting some of the responsibility of daily care for loved ones who live alone in the hands of technology can alleviate much of the worry and stress that caregivers feel. It allows you both to focus more on the things you enjoy in your life, and your relationship can be given the opportunity to flourish when every conversation is not centered on how you are doing each day.

BUT–such advanced technology comes at a price, and for some of these systems (and many others) it is a high one. But you CAN afford it! At the Farr Law Firm, we specialize in a branch of Elder Law that focuses on protecting your assets so that we can apply for Medicaid and Veteran’s Benefits (if applicable) for you. Our goal for that Level 4 Planning is to protect your assets from the disastrous expenses of long term care, so that some of those assets can be used to enhance your standard of living with goods and services not covered by government financial assistance, such as the ones I’ve described. And if the aging-in-place option is not for you, we can help you prepare for and decide on your other long-term care options.

If you have a family with seniors who are contemplating their long-term care options, we can provide the solutions that you may be looking for. Achieving long term peace of mind is an invaluable asset that we are honored to assist you with. Please do not hesitate to call us at 1-800-399-FARR to schedule a free, initial consultation.

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.