Recently I had the chance to visit an old time friend – unfortunately the reason was a funeral, since her dad passed away.
In the late afternoon, she opened her heart and told me how she spent the last months. When she wasn’t working, she was always visiting her dad or doing something for him. Despite being a big and strong man, the time spent in the hospital had a negative impact on him. And he returned home in a wheelchair “he looked around the walls, the stairs, at us-his family” for the first time from the bottom up. “Then he seemed to relax. He was finally at home, his home”.
My friend started the paperwork to become her father’s principal caregiver, however, three days later he passed away.
The hospital doctor could only speculate why this happened so suddenly (one theory was since he was no longer monitored by hospital machines no one noticed the issue in time).
The reason why I am reporting such a sad story is because that day I realized that anyone in that house (including myself) has had a similar experience – an aged family member who was taken away from his home to cure some physical ailment, and in turn the prolonged stay away from home became a contributory cause of his/her decline. Once they return home they may even feel like a burden on the family because they require 24h assistance (not to mention the family’s anxiety when home care is no longer feasible and expensive fees are required by specalized hospices).
I wondered if this will be the fate for us all?
No, we can make things better (and we owe it to both ourselves and our loved ones).
Smart homes can not only monitor if someone is inside or not – security cameras and sensors can show who is at the door (and allow entry using a cell phone), detect potential dangers (water on the floor, smoke, etc), check if the person is not moving for a long time, and even automatically alert specific people (family, doctor, neighbor, etc).
Home automation can also relieve aged people from daily decisions: switch on/off the lights, close the door/stove, manage heating/cooling, get automatic alerts for medicines. Many of these devices can even learn from user habits and adjust settings automatically.
Moreover, advanced communication platforms allow the patient at home to communicate directly with doctor, remaining monitored without having to go to the hospital: no more traffic, taking time from work or waiting in rooms full of sick strangers. In several regions of Italy, we can already register for online services (check our medical records, change doctor, book specialised medical examinations).
These solutions allow elderly people to continue living in their house as usual, keeping privacy and habits, feeling secure because help is just minutes away. And family members can monitor their loved ones from anywhere with an internet connection – all this is simply priceless.