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Staying Connected to Those Who Care

Gadgets both simple and advanced can extend an independent life at home for the aged or ailing

For those who don’t want the chore of loading those dispensers, the latest electronic reminders use cell phones and e-mail or piggyback onto medical-alert systems. OnTimeRx will send you e-mail, phone, cell phone, and pager alerts for scheduling all types of reminders—daily medications, monthly refills, doctor and dentist appointments, or other events, for $10 to $30 a month (407-843-8966; www.ontimerx.com).

Rescue Alert monitors your pillbox directly. A transmitter in the dispenser alerts a dispatcher if the lid isn’t opened within 15 or 30 minutes. There are several rental and purchase plans (800-688-9576; www.rescuealert.com).

MONITORS & VIDEO VISITS

PROBLEM:

About 7 million adults live at least an hour from a parent they’re caring for, the National Institute on Aging estimates.

SOLUTION:

Rather than your calling Mom hourly to check in, monitors around the home can discreetly reassure loved ones she’s carrying out her daily routine. These aren’t spy cameras but unobtrusive motion detectors. For a sense of togetherness, cameras attached to your computer or TV set let you visit with family via the Internet.

PRODUCTS:

Living Independently Group’s QuietCare Plus combines a medical-alert SOS button, motion detection to see whether Mom left the bedroom at the usual hour, and monitoring that includes reporting whether the house is too warm or too cold ($199 for installation, plus $99 a month). All the information, transmitted wirelessly to a dedicated phone line, also appears on a password-protected website a caregiver can check anytime, (877-822-2468; www.quietcare.com).

Logitech’s QuickCam webcams, starting at $30, are easy to install, include a headset, and work with free instant-messaging software and Web phone services such as Skype (800-231-7717; www.logitech.com). With AttentiveCare, elders don’t need to be tech-savvy to visit by computer. For a $198 setup fee and $58 a month, relatives or caregivers can videoconference and make any sound and picture adjustments remotely for the older family member (888-317-7702; www.caregivertech.com).

Beamer TV, a set-top device with built-in camera, works through your TV’s RCA video jack and your phone line, all for $80 (877-963-8383; www.vialtastore.com/beamertv.htm).

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