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The Caregivers' High-tech Gift List

Reading Material on Demand: Many older adults love to read. Electronic book readers are devices that charge a fee to wirelessly download the latest bestseller or classic novel straight to the machine. These portable readers allow the user to set the size of the text to match their visual needs, and pages are turned with the simple toggle of a switch.

Tracking Medications: Taking over-the-counter and prescription drugs are a part of everyday life that helps us manage chronic conditions. Keeping track of all our medicines can be difficult, but there are many devices that can help prevent confusion. First, there’s the simple pillbox that can be filled weekly. There are more sophisticated ones that you or your loved one can fill and then it electronically dispenses all of their pills with the touch of a button. Some even have timers that alert your Mom or Dad that it’s time to take their medications.

Personal-Response Systems: This technology has been around for a while. The transmitter, which can be leased or purchased, is worn as a watch, bracelet or necklace, and with the push of a button a loved one can be connected to a call center. Service options include the immediate notification of neighbors, local public safety officials, or even you via e-mail or phone.

Alert Systems: It is great to have visitors, but if you are worried that your parents can’t hear the doorbell or a knock, you can install signals to trigger flashing lights—including existing house lamps—to alert your loved one that someone is at the door.

Home safety, fire and carbon monoxide monitoring is obviously important and, again, depending on the provider options you choose, you can be alerted when any issue arises. Remember, a security system needs to be armed and disarmed, so make sure that your loved one understands how to operate it.

There are a number of high-tech home monitoring systems that can tell you what’s going on in a house without you even being there. Features include monitoring to determine whether your loved one has gotten out of bed, the refrigerator has been opened on any particular day, the stove has been left on for longer than needed, and the house temperature is too cold or too hot.

Obviously there are privacy issues with this sort of monitoring, but it may be an appropriate use of technology depending on the wishes and abilities of your loved one.

If home-monitoring technology sounds like it might be a good fit for your family members, consider having a discussion with them. In a recent AARP study of people age 65+, 56 percent of adults said they would be willing to use activity sensors in their homes, and 52 percent agreed to use technology to monitor lights, temperature, and appliances in their homes. So many older adults are open to embracing these technologies because they see tangible benefits in their quality of life.

Staying Mobile: There are a tremendous number of mobility devices that can help people who have trouble getting around in their house. From scooters to stair-lifts, these devices can give older adults a greater sense of independence.

If you are helping provide care for a person with any dementia, global-positioning-satellite (GPS) technology can help locate any person who is wearing a transmitter. Many of these transmitters now look like ordinary watches and relieve some of the stigma people may feel when wearing one.

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