At 88, Malibu Bob, one of my best friends in life is healthier than just about anyone ever imagined he’d be.
It looked a lot different 5 years ago when Bob didn’t answer my calls prompting me to pay him a visit which later brought us to the emergency department.
Living alone, Bob’s health was slipping away. One issue he hoped would resolve cascaded instead into more serious ones. Gradually what he thought would get better was about to take him and no one would know it.
What happened next was a tech awakening no one ever expected.
Podcast #12: Best Senior Medical Tech And Caring Tools
Best Senior Tech podcast
03:01 What works and making a plan
03:16 Hiring the right caregivers
04:21 The tech needed and owning the experience
04:45 Getting started caring for a senior
05:20 First tech to get for your senior's home
07:30 The medical devices that make a difference
08:10 Accuracy and speed of data is important
09:04 Why Apple Heath is the leader
09:20 What app does your medical center or hospital use
10:25 Medical grade EKG at home with no drama
13:00 'Alexa, call 911'
13:20 The Jitterbug phone is all grown up.. and smart
14:45 Uber for Seniors.. no app needed
15:18 How to order an Uber car without an app
16:00 Med pill dispensers
18:30 How much all this costs and why insurance companies should pay for it
18:55 Why Apple is ahead of most with Health, Care and Research
19:40 What doctors say is most important with using tech
20:00 How to navigate tech glitches and challenges
21:00 Preventing falls
22:00 Fall Prevention app
24:00 Check with your doctor
Bob’s disdain for new technology over the years is always apparent and amusing in our friendship. More recently, his shift to an embrace of technology as he gets older is helping him stay independent and strong.
I’m a witness to its success.
Taking a step-by-step approach to senior technology is where to start.
1/ Make a Plan
Begin by deciding to own the process. Set goals, define how progress will be measured, invite support from other loved ones, understand meds and make a list of when and why they are being taken, research online to see if any of them are contrary, never miss a doctor’s appointment, setup a calendar on your device named after your loved one.
There you will put all appointments and reminders and share it with supporting friends and family members. This advice is solid and will make for an easier time managing what it is to care for another senior loved one.
Listen to my podcast for in-depth ways to create the right plan and introduce affordable technology that works for seniors too.
And remember that everyone is unique with completely different needs. When you are tuned into those needs you can then decide with the advice of doctors which technology is right for you and your loved one.
Only trust medical advice from a doctor — not a relative, friend or Dr. Google who all think they are doctors.
Read more: Step 2: Getting Started at Home
2/ Getting Started: Home Checklist
Follow these steps for setting everything up starting with our surroundings.
Make sure home is safe.
Reduce risk of falling including removing small rugs, uneven floors, add grab rails as needed.
Setup broadband internet service that you can control remotely
The best thing you can do for an older loved one is set up broadband internet that allows for you to control it remotely. If the internet goes down, or there’s a glitch, you can fix it from your smartphone from miles away. Don’t make the mistake of sourcing wireless routers from an internet provider. Instead, install simple broadband service and add wireless routers that are super easy to manage remotely.
Install a WiFi router that can be remotely managed and covers all living space.
You want every inch of home covered without wondering whether there is enough coverage and bandwidth for reliability. I can manage this from anywhere and resolve a connection glitch. I choose Eero as the best solution and continue to love it.
Set up a Wireless all-in-one printer with high-capacity ink so it requires less maintenance.
When I need to get a document to Bob or a caregiver, I just email to the printer from anywhere and it prints automatically.
I share this printer’s email address with the entire family and close friends that Bob wanted on the list. I use HP DeskJet 2755 Wireless All-in-One Printer. Whenever there is something Bob should see, I text or email the caregiver that it will be on the printer to hand to him. Anyone can email anything to print in an instant.
Set up Devices for Automation, Communication and Surveillance
August Smartlock wins first pick and lets you invite caregivers, friends and family to have access, records each visit and tells you if door is locked or unlocked. You can unlock it remotely for deliveries etc.
Ring video doorbell lets you make sure door is closed, see if stranger is trying to gain access, check for deliveries left outside. The Ring Video Doorbell winner here is the wired version which does not require recharging.
Wireless Smart Cameras keep track of your loved one and those around them is key. I want to see if everything looks okay, if Bob is living well and has not fallen, and if any unexpected faces are suddenly in the house. Almost as valuable is sharing with every person is that the cameras are there because our priority is Bob’s safety and well-being. I like the affordable Wyze Cam v3.
Smart Caregiver Two Call Buttons & Wireless Caregiver Pager allow for easy communication no matter where Bob is at home. Bob’s two story home makes it challenging to hear someone from one part of the house to another. I want to make sure Bob and any on-duty caregiver are connected when he needs them. One goes on the shower wall with a pull cord in case of fall, one on his nightstand next to the new hard wire phone with lighted big buttons and a pager worn by the caregiver. It’s inexpensive and works like a charm.
Amazon Echo in the bedroom. I put this in so that Bob could holler out “Alexa, call Kurt” or “Alexa, call 9-1-1” To help remind him of the command, I printed it out in big letters near it. If he falls on his way to and from the bathroom in the middle of the night, he would be able to get help immediately. I also set it up so that I could intercom in or out to him instantly. Glitches of Alexa starting to talk on her own causes Bob to get startled and unplug the Echo. I’m working on sharing how Bob can tell Alexa to shut up when a glitch happens. His Apple Watch serves as an emergency SOS beacon too.
What’s most important is the reliability, keeping it easy, and managing remotely when possible. Once you have the house as connected as possible, the next focus goes to identifying the medical technology that will help measure wellness and recovery.
I look for affordable and practical solutions that have proven real-life results while avoiding the hype and seeking input from people with hands-on experience and then I ask doctors if the data would be useful to them and my loved one’s progress. Be smart and choose the best affordable technology that can be trusted. You need to be able to get solid data. One glitch is too many for health and medical.
3/ Monitoring Health: Choosing the Technology
Here’s what I have identified for Bob that is working with the goal of being as proactive with healthcare as is possible. Remember that what you need is likely to be different since each person’s medical needs are unique. Always speak to your loved ones doctor(s) before making any tech decisions.
Best App for Seniors (and their loved ones)
Connected Care app by far is the most comprehensive way to collectively track your loved one’s care and well-being. Manage doc appointments, medications, medical history and more in a way that helps everyone feel connected knowing your loved one is good. Created by a physician for families. Download Connected Care app available in both Apple iOS and Android versions.
Best Devices for monitoring daily health stats
AliveCor KardiaMobile Wireless EKG Monitor. I stick this on the back of an iPod Touch and iPad Mini and launch the Kardia app to do a daily measurement of Bob’s heart rate and rhythm. 30 seconds is all it takes for a medical grade EKG that is then stored and data automatically shared back the cardiologist and anyone we choose. Our goal here is to make sure Bob’s heart is in normal sinus rhythm and to detect irregular heart activity as quickly as possible.
Withings Health Wireless Blood Pressure Monitor is used in the morning and night. Free downloadable Healthmate app records and shares the data with Apple Health which is connected to our doctors. At any moment, we can look at trending data about Bob’s heart to help understand his health better.
Wireless Oximeter called Masimo MightySat measures the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream. This is critical for anyone with a heart condition and the brand I found is the same one used inside most hospitals. We use this once a day and the data is also combined with other medical monitoring data that points into Apple Health and onward to the hospital.
Apple Watch can accurately detect atrial fibrillation, a heart condition which is the leading cause that triggers a stroke responsible for 130,000 deaths a year and 750,000 hospitalizations in U.S. It can detect irregular heart rhythms with 97% accuracy and is 85% accurate at detecting diabetes.
The Apple Heart Study app is available in the US App Store to customers who are 22 years or older and have an Apple Watch Series 1 or later. What Apple is doing in the realm of Health, Research and Medical advancements is remarkable and promising. Apple is by far the most health and wellness focused company of all tech leaders.
I recently was offered an afternoon to see how their accessibility team is making Apple products some of the most incredible tools for those of us living with challenges that benefit from a tech foot upward. I was literally moved to tears as met an Olympian who remains a physical athletic threat to competitors because of the commitment Apple has to making each of their products work better for ALL of us.
An alternative to spending as much for an Apple Watch is the Withings Pulse HR Health Tracker which automatically syncs activity data first to Withings Heathmate app, then Apple Health and on to our doctors systems.
Withings Body Cardio wireless scale. This does a lot more than just take your weight. It also has sensors that read the energy and impedance between each foot when stepping on the scale to provide data such as muscle mass, heart rate, body fat and water. The best feature is how it passively updates to Apple Health so that your loved one never has to manually do anything for you to know.
JitterBug Lively Flip Cell Phone. Greatcall is now the name of the company behind JitterBug. You remember the commercials showing a flip phone with giant buttons?
Yup, this is it, except it also has a powerful app and an even more powerful single red button called the 5 Star button. Press it and the urgent care call center on the other end knows your loved one’s health status, background, GPS location, doctors names, and where they normally spend their time so that an odd address might single distress to them.
This is the most assuring device that also allows me to log on to the GreatCall app anytime to see that Bob is safe and sound. There is no other platform built for those who are looking after loved ones than Greatcall.
Add this into your phone: Uber for Seniors
Inside the JitterBug is a quick and easy speed-dial list with GogoGrandparent there for rides. Imagine an Uber app without the app! For Bob, he can click the GogoGrandparent speed-dial number to hear these three options.
- Press 1 to be picked up at home.
- Press 2 to be picked up where we last dropped you off.
- or Press 3 to be picked up at a new address.
It could not be easier for someone who does not ever plan on launching the Uber app.
Food Delivery Service
Set up easy and reliable on-demand sources like Amazon Fresh grocery delivery, Instacart, Doordash for rush deliveries. It’s good to know who will deliver to your loved one’s zip code.