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Quiz: Do You Know How Technology Can Help You Care for a Loved One?

Tech won’t solve all problems, but it can take some pressure off you

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If you’re an older adult, smart homes may seem like a lot of hype — or best left to those more comfortable with technology.

But if you’re one of the 9 in 10 people ages 50 to 80 who say they want to stay in their homes as long as possible, innovations available today can help you remain independent, especially if you live alone. And that tech can help your family keep tabs on your safety without being intrusive. Here’s a quiz to show you what today’s tech can do for you and your family.

Question 1 of 8

Security cameras used to be the device of choice for family caregivers to monitor loved ones when they weren’t making phone calls. But that Big Brother technology is now taking a back seat to what other off-site oversight?

The newest smart TVs act more like the camera on your laptop computer or smartphone, becoming a big screen for video calls rather than an always-on security camera. And ambient sensors without cameras or microphones use radar, AI and cellular connectivity to figure out when someone is standing, sitting, lying down or has fallen, making that information available to a caregiver without putting the care recipient center stage in a sort of surveillance theater.

Question 2 of 8

What’s the most dangerous room in the house for older adults?

A federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study more than a decade ago looked at nonfatal injuries from 2008, and what researchers found confirmed what a lot of people suspected: A bathroom’s hard tile, wet surfaces and cramped space are unforgiving for those who might trip or lose their balance.

About 80 percent of those injured in the bathroom fell, and that rate rose steadily with age, more than doubling for those 85 and older compared with 75- to 84-year-olds. Women fell in the bathroom more than men. More than two-thirds of injuries happened in bathtubs or showers; about a quarter occurred near the toilet.

Installing grab bars is a low-tech solution to preventing injuries. Designers have gotten into the act, creating toilet paper holders that can help steady someone experiencing low blood pressure when standing too quickly after using the commode and shampoo shelves and soap baskets that serve dual purposes in tubs and showers.

The key to success when installing any grab bar? Anchor it to a wall stud so it can bear a user’s full weight when needed.

Question 3 of 8

How can technology in a bathroom help keep an older adult independent?

But wait, there’s more: Internet-connected scales can track weight and other body measurements and import the data into a health app or share it with caregivers and physicians.

A higher-tech toilet seat that is close to being offered for sale measures heart rate, blood oxygenation and blood pressure — important because part of the reason bathroom injuries occur near the commode comes from a condition that older adults can develop called orthostatic hypotension. The feeling of dizziness when you quickly go from sitting to standing occurs because of a drop in blood pressure.

And that bidet seat? Well, it may not be a device that Americans grew up using, but bidets have been around for hundreds of years, and versions that aren’t separate from a toilet have been in use since the 1980s. Use of a bidet means less worry about irritating any hemorrhoids or running out of toilet paper. Some bidet seats can shower the tush with warm water and dry it off with warm air, too.

Question 4 of 8

Why would an older adult and the adult’s caregiver want to have a smart speaker at home?

Voice-controlled smart speakers can serve numerous purposes in multiple rooms. In the kitchen, you might ask it to suggest recipes. In the bedroom, it can play soothing music to help you get some shut-eye then become the morning alarm that wakes you.

People can chat with a smart speaker and ask it all sorts of questions, summoning the digital assistants inside the speakers by saying trigger words, such as “Alexa,” “Hey, Google,” “Hey, Siri.” Smart speakers are relatively inexpensive, though you’ll pay more for models with visual displays that let you watch videos or participate in video calls.

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Question 5 of 8

A smart oven or stove can be turned off remotely.

Though not true of every model, some smart ranges can be turned off via an app on your phone. This potentially can cut down the risk of fire if an older adult forgets the appliance is on, leaving it unattended. That’s because a caregiver can get notification of the potential danger and switch it off from far away.

Users also can change the cooking temperature from an app, especially important if a turkey is browning too soon but still needs more time in the oven to be completely done. If you have an older stove not connected to the internet, a third-party accessory may be able to shut it off before a burnt beef brisket becomes a problem.

Question 6 of 8

Which of these is not a smart bed feature?

Smart beds can monitor the quality of your zzzs and help create an environment conducive to your getting a sound night’s sleep. But most smart beds don’t come cheap, especially because adjustable bases that can lift your head to prevent snoring or your feet to ease swollen legs are sold separately from the mattresses that have temperature and firmness options.

Question 7 of 8

A smart door lock is useful because:

Smart locks are all about peace of mind, but models vary considerably. Some let you unlock the door through a mobile app, fingerprint scanner or keypad.

Some work with Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Some can be retrofitted onto your existing deadbolt. And some give you the option of inserting an old-fashioned physical key. A few can even be combined with a doorbell video camera.

Question 8 of 8

The tech industry standard that aims at making it easier for smart home devices from one company to communicate with models from a rival brand is called:

The emerging standard that promises to enable devices from rival brands to work together seamlessly and securely is called Matter.

Established by an industry group known as the Connectivity Standards Alliance, Matter has the backing of Amazon, Apple, Google and Samsung, among other companies. It will let you, for example, ask Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri to change the temperature on your Google Nest thermostat.

Some products already in your house can meet the Matter certification requirements with an over-the-air update through your Wi-Fi. Newer products will sport a Matter logo. But not every smart home product category has Matter support yet.

Incidentally, the internet of things (IoT) is an umbrella term used to describe all smart home devices.

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