Caring for elderly parents can be a challenge whether you have a full-time job and a busy lifestyle, are taking precautions due to COVID-19 to help seniors stay safe, or are trying to help when you live far away.
One of the most challenging things about being a caregiver is riding the line between caring, and what your aging parent might feel is controlling. Finding a balance of keeping an eye on your loved one and allowing them to feel independent, that’s where wearable devices come in.
Wearable devices for seniors have come a long way since the oversized life alert pendants that hang around older adults’ necks like a sign that says, “Someone thinks I’m frail.” In an increasingly computerized world, they have become smaller and more discrete, while also becoming better in functionality.
Whether you want to log location, track health metrics, or detect falls, these senior safety wearables can provide you with peace of mind while maintaining your parent’s privacy, pride, and dignity.
The Apple Watch isn’t just a hot, trendy watch. Recent updates to the device include sensors that are terrific to help track a variety of health issues.
Newer models now have a built-in ECG heart rate monitor app. Your loved one simply holds their finger on the Digital Crown for 30 seconds to obtain a reading. Once the reading is complete, they’ll receive the results as AFib, sinus rhythm, or inconclusive. If they’re feeling ill, they can tap to add symptoms. All recordings are tracked in the Health App, which can be sent to their physician.
The watch also offers a Heart Rate app so that your loved one can get their heart rate whenever they like. The data is recorded in the Health app, and you can set up notifications for things like a high heart rate.
One of the biggest benefits of the Apple Watch is its fall detection capabilities. If the watch detects a hard fall while your loved one is wearing it, the watch will “tap” them on the wrist, sound an alarm, and display an alert. They can choose to contact emergency services or dismiss the alert by pressing the Digital Crown, tapping Close in the upper-left corner, or tapping “I’m OK.”
Although there’s a hefty upfront cost, you won’t have to pay a monthly fee to keep it working like medical alert systems.
Did you think the FitBit is only for young athletes in training? Think again. The wearable fitness tracker can monitor sophisticated health data like steps, calories burned, sleep quality, and heart rate.
Tracking your loved one’s physical activity might help give them a stronger sense of responsibility for their health. By monitoring, and hopefully seeing improvements in their measurements, they may feel even more motivated to stay active.
It can also be helpful to track their sleep habits, which can help you see what gets in the way of a good night’s sleep and help the doctor know more about what affects your loved one’s sleep.
With the Alexa smart assistant built into the FitBit Versa, you can set alarms and reminders for things like medications and appointments.
This FitBit doesn’t have the messaging capabilities of the Apple Watch, but if your parent’s phone is nearby, it can use Bluetooth to make calls and send messages.
The Angel Watch Series R - Assist is designed with older adults and their caregivers in mind. Based on a smartwatch for kiddos, it has caregiver-friendly functions like GPS tracking and location history, video calling, and a three-second SOS button. It also includes a few extras like medication reminders, sedentary alerts, and automatic fall detection.
With the Angel Watch, you can track your loved one’s health, including heart rate, blood pressure, blood oxygen, body temperature, and sleep quality.
If your loved one has hypertension or is at risk of hypertension, checking their blood pressure at home can help you and their doctor make decisions about treatment, such as adjusting dosage, changing medication, or increasing or decreasing activity levels. In addition to tracking their blood pressure, the Angel Watch will track their daily heart rate as well as systolic and diastolic numbers.
Bay Alarm Medical
Watches aren’t for everyone, especially if your loved one struggles with arthritis. If that’s the case, try the Bay Alarm Medical Alert System.
A more traditional wearable device for seniors, this GPS wearable comes as a necklace or a belt clip-on. It’s a super simple one-button device. Just push the button and get help — that’s it.
If your loved one calls for help, the two-way communication connects them to the pros who can send help in cases like a fall, chest pains, or feeling lost.
Another more traditional wearable device, the Lively Mobile is a one-button wearable tracking device designed that can be worn as a necklace or clip on a belt or bag.
The device is helpful not only during falls or medical emergencies, but agents can also help in cases where your loved one might need roadside assistance or help contacting family.
The Tile is a small sensor that uses Bluetooth to sync to your phone to track an object, like your parent’s wallet. If their wallet goes missing, they can use an app on their smartphone that audibly rings their Tile tracker so they can locate it.
What happens if your parent loses their phone? No worries. They can double-tap the Tile logo on any device itself to make their phone ring (even if it’s on silent!).
When Tracking Isn’t Enough
Wearable tech can help your parent live a more connected and independent life. Technology that tracks daily habits can help nudge them to get up and move if they’ve been sitting longer than usual. Apps offer notifications for medication and appointment reminders that can help them stay safe and healthy living on their own. With connected technology, your parent can be confident again when going to the grocery store or enjoying an evening walk without the fear of potentially falling with no help available.
However, there might come a point when wearable devices aren’t enough. For example, if your loved one is still spending days at home without leaving the house, they’re really missing out on social connection. Lack of companionship is associated with depression and heart problems in older adults.
Of course, all families would love to stay in the stages where their parents get the help they need at home, but there will come a time when your parents need daily help — possibly even daily medical help or full-time help.
If you’re concerned that your loved one might need more assistance than wearable devices can provide, take a look at this eBook, Signs It’s Time to Start the Search for Assisted Living.