As family caregivers, we are always searching for ways to keep our loved ones safe, support our caregiving roles, and ease our worries. Technology provides us with helpful tools, but our loved ones are sometimes concerned about technology in their homes. These are some tips to help ease apprehensions and introduce the idea that technology can help support independence.
Starting the Conversation
Approach with a respectful and loving attitude and start with “I” statements. An indirect approach may work best for some people, while a direct approach works better for others. Think about the best time of day for the conversations and who should be included. Try these conversation-starters:
- “I love and respect you, and I worry that something could happen to you when you wouldn’t be able to get help. So, I’d like to talk with you about using technology to help keep you safe.
- “I talked with my friend, and her mother has a video camera and motion sensor in her home so her daughter can check-in, talk with her, and be alerted if there is a problem. She says it is a huge help and eases her worries about her mom. I’d like to look into similar options for you. How about if I come back to you with some ideas?”
- “I’m wondering if you have thought about what would happen if you fell or had a health crisis, like a stroke or heart attack? How would you get help? I’d like to talk about some options to ensure your safety.”
- “I’m calling you frequently throughout the day to make sure you’re ok, and instead I could have a system in your home with fall sensors, motion sensors, two-way communication, and video cameras that could assure me everything is ok, or alert me if there is a problem. Let’s talk about the possibilities.”
- “I find myself worrying about you a lot. It would give me peace of mind to know we had some technology in place so I know you’re safe.”
- When the care recipient says: “Why do you think this technology is necessary? I’m fine here alone. I can call you if I have any problems.”
- You say: “I am glad you feel good about being alone, and at the same time I am concerned that if something happened, such as a health crisis or a fall, you wouldn’t actually be able to call for help. I’d like to know that help can be called for automatically. Or, if you don’t answer your phone when I call, I’d like to be able to check to see if you are active in the house and just didn’t hear your phone, or if you are on the floor or unconscious.”
- When the care recipient says: “I’ve been fine so far. I’ve never had a fall or left the stove on or had a heart attack, why do you think I need this?”
- You say: “I’m grateful that so far you haven’t had an emergency, however, that doesn’t mean it won’t happen in the future. I want to have the peace of mind of knowing that if you had an emergency, I’d be able to check in, get help and monitor what’s happening. You may feel like you don’t need it – until you do. And then if you don’t have it, it will be too late.”
Comfort Using Technology
- When the care recipient says: “I don’t know much about technology.”
- You say: “That’s ok – I’ll get it all set up and I have someone to help if there is a problem. You don’t need to worry about becoming proficient with technology.”
- When the care recipient says: “I don’t want to, or I won’t be able to learn how to use it.”
- You say: “You won’t need to do anything. Just go about your day, stay in contact with me, or maybe call out for help if you need it. We can practice anything you want to do with the technology, and there will always be someone available to help.”
- When the care recipient says: “How will my identity be protected?”
- You say: “I have investigated the technology I’m suggesting, and it has built-in security features to protect your identity. I’ll make sure the software is kept up to date to ensure the highest level of safety, and I’ll use strong passwords. When I check the devices using an app, I’ll change my password frequently, keep the app up to date and I’ll only use a secure Wi-Fi connection.”
- When the care recipient says: “I’m concerned about being ‘watched’. It will make me feel uncomfortable. Who else will be watching the video or listening in on me?”
- You say: “I know you don’t mind when I’m in the home with you. This technology just makes it possible for me to be with you virtually. It’s similar to what I would do if I was with you, except it’s from a distance. I will only consider technology that ensures that only I (or other family members we designate) can monitor your alerts, see the video, etc. We can be careful about where monitors and cameras are placed so you won’t feel uncomfortable, and your personal privacy is protected.”
- When the care recipient says: “You’ll be infringing on my independence.”
- You say: “Actually, I value your independence too. I know how important that is. I’d like to support you in remaining as independent as possible for as long as possible. This technology will help you remain in your home so you can be more independent.”
- When the care recipient says: “Just let me live my life and do what I want to do. I want to stay in my home.”
- You say: “I want you to remain as independent as possible in your home, too. Adding this bit of technology can help you do so. It will help ensure your safety so you can stay here. I know you do not want to move elsewhere, and this is one way to support your wishes. Think of it kind of like insurance; it’s in place if you need it and will enable you to stay safe.”
Expect to have several conversations before coming to a mutual agreement. Once you start using technology, be sure to check in frequently to ensure it is working well and your loved ones are comfortable with it. It’s important that they know you are open to feedback. Likewise, be sure to tell them about how it is helping you worry less about them. Provide specific examples, such as sleeping better or being less distracted at work. Continue to share articles and stories so they become increasingly familiarized with the benefits of technology.
Amy Goyer is a caregiving expert and author of Juggling Life, Work, and Caregiving. A passionate champion for caregivers, she has also been one her entire adult life, caring for her grandparents, parents, sister, and others. Connect with Amy on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.