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I was reading various news headlines for boomers and seniors dealing with the various Sandwich Generation issues. One in particular caught my eye. Beep! It’s Your Medicine Nagging You, over at the Wall Street Journal, discusses a high-tech way of managing medications. There have been several news articles recently about elderly patients not taking all of their medication. Sometimes, they haven’t even picked them up. Designers have created a special, “wi-fi” medicine bottle that can beep at the patient to remind them, or even be programmed to send email reminders to the patients, the doctors, or the family member taking care of their elderly parents, to help them remember.
Another article, Most Frequent Medical Error? Making No Appointment, Researchers Say, at McKnight’s, points out that many patients aren’t making follow-up appointments to specialists that their regular doctors have recommended. There again, high-tech solutions are being considered, such as healthcare IT.
Those solutions sound great – for myself as well as other members of the Baby Boomer Generation or younger. For the elderly who have mostly grown old with little or no computer experience, maybe not. I can’t, of course, speak for everyone. I can however speak for many, as I have elderly relatives with a wide variety of computer experience – from a lot to absolutely zero. For most of them, even those with some experience, the high-tech solution would probably not work that great.
Most of my elderly friends and relatives would have a very difficult time dealing with a medicine bottle that beeped at them to remind them to take medicine. It could be especially confusing if they have to take several medications through the day. We tried non-electronic pill dispensers and they even had a hard time with those. Electronic would have been an even harder learning curve.
Computerized phone reminders are so-so as well. I got two today – one for my senior mom and one for myself. Same office, same appointment – two different messages (go figure!). One only required them to listen to it, but it was silent for a few seconds before it even started. I’ve learned to wait for those, due to past experience. My senior relatives have a tendency to get frustrated easily, thinking it’s a wrong number, and hang up right away. The second call required me to listen to a long message, then press 3 to confirm the appointment. I have a couple of elderly friends who are doing just fine overall, but who would have gotten mixed up by that point – if they didn’t just hang up early because they weren’t comfortable with the process.
I think high-tech will be great for those of us who are using computers extensively, but nothing takes the place of a dear relative, good friend, or other responsible person taking care of their beloved elderly parents or other dear seniors as they deal with doctor appointments, taking medications, and following up on treatments. I heartily recommend encouraging your senior parents to start letting you get involved before they really need it, so that you can be “in the know” when an emergency hits unexpectedly.
When my dad’s Parkinson’s started getting much worse, and they had a hard time remembering what their doctor told them at their last appointment, I asked if I could start going with them to the doctor’s and I was so happy when they said yes. Once I started going, I wished I’d asked sooner. I am a mega-note-taker and would write down everything the doctor said. That paid off for all of us in so many ways, I highly recommend it. It’s also very helpful for the doctors and staff to get to know you in case of any problems.
The end result of my getting so involved is that we were all able to stay on top of doctor appointments and medications more easily, and my senior parents were so much more relaxed and happy to share that burden with me. Not every parent will feel that way, of course, and this is definitely one of those areas that requires much compassion and sensitivity. But if it’s at all possible, it will be a blessing for them, and for you as well!
What ways have you found useful to help you as you are taking care of your elderly parents and helping them with medical appointments and taking medications? Have you found any electronic gizmos that your elderly parents can handle? Are you interested in trying a high tech medication reminder? If so, ActiveForever has an interesting . If you prefer low-tech, Amazon has an easy open pill organizer.