For Caregivers, New Tracking Technology Offers Peace of Mind
Monitors and phones that ensure your loved one's safety, 24/7
Sherri Snelling, executive director at Keck Medicine of USC and author of A Cast of Caregivers – Celebrity Stories to Help You Prepare to Care, is a nationally recognized expert on America’s 65 million family caregivers with special emphasis on how to help caregivers balance “self-care” while caring for a loved one.
As the 10 million caregivers nationwide who look after people with Alzheimer’s disease know, wandering can become a serious issue as the disease progresses. However, many patients cherish their independence and resist being cut off from the world at large. The walking shoe called simply the GPS shoe may help families balance those needs. Initially designed for use by marathoners and small children, and made in the USA in New Jersey, the shoe has a tiny GPS tracking device embedded in its heel. Older PERS devices had limited range, but products like the GPS allow for more freedom. Family caregivers and their loved one agree to a set perimeter known as a “geofence” or “virtual wall," be it no further than the corner store, or into the next town. As soon as the shoe goes beyond that perimeter, a warning signal is sent to the caregiver via a text, email, or phone call. Google Maps then directs the caregiver to the exact location of their loved one. The GPS shoe brings peace of mind, but at a cost - it runs $299 a pair, and the monthly service costs about $35.
More than 60% of Americans over age 74 have a cell phone and many of them have embraced Great Call's Jitterbug phone, with its oversized buttons, large type, powerful speakers, and a minimum of apps and extras. Now Jitterbug offers the 5Star Urgent Response service as well, delivering immediate, 24/7 emergency assistance at the push of a button. It joins other valuable Jitterbug services, such as a 24/7 LiveNurse app and a medication reminder function. Jitterbug phones start at $99 with service plans that begin at $14.99 per month. There is no yearly contract and no cancellation fee. The 5Star Emergency Response service costs an additional $14.99 per month.
If you're a family caregiver seeking to start a conversation with your loved one about obtaining one of these tracking devices, there are four Ps to keep in mind: prevention, protection, privacy and peace of mind.
Begin your discussion with prevention and protection. I counsel caregivers to make sure their loved ones know that caregiving is a partnership (that's another P word for you) that can only succeed when you work together. For example, the federal Centers for Disease Control reports that 2 million seniors are treated in emergency rooms every year because of falls. That's a real risk. If you can establish that you both share the goal of ensuring your loved one's protection and making sure he or she gets attention as quickly as possible to prevent the risk of even more serious injury, then you can move on to the privacy discussion.