When it comes to looking after our elderly parents we never stop worrying, says retired civil servant Gill. But we can learn to manage our worrying, she believes, and with a little help from technology, can even reduce it.
Gill’s mum Nancy is 94 and lives only a few miles from her daughter in Swinton in South Yorkshire.
Until a couple of years ago, Nancy had enjoyed good health and there was little doubt she could live independently and take care of herself.
A widow for nearly 30 years, she was used to living alone. However, hearing problems and arthritis became of increasing concern to Gill and her three sisters.
Gill explains: “A couple of years ago mum began to deteriorate and I found myself worrying more and more. I live the closest to mum, although my three sisters, who live in Wakefield, Wales and Australia, are also very much involved in looking after her welfare. I go and see her every day, apart from Sunday when my sister comes over from Wakefield. When I go on holiday we make arrangements so my sister from Wales comes up to visit. It’s a lot to manage but between us we seem to get by.”
Earlier this year Gill, 63, heard about a new device called the 3rings smartplug, which can help those with elderly relatives to make sure they are OK.
The device uses mobile technology to tell users when their relative has used a designated electrical device such as a kettle, TV or toaster. It’s a simple way of establishing that someone is up and active and going about their normal daily routine.
In Gill’s case she and her sisters knew her mum went to bed at almost exactly the same time every night. And when she did so, she always switched on a bedside lamp before getting into bed.
“Mum is a bit of a creature of habit and she always goes to bed just after 10pm. Even if she’s in the middle of watching something on TV she’ll still go upstairs at around that time. You can almost set your watch by her. So we’ve set the 3rings plug to tell us when mum uses the lamp. A ‘peace of mind message’ is sent to our phone – or we get a ‘red alert’ if she hasn’t used it. So far, thankfully the message comes through like clockwork and gives us a little bit of reassurance that she is fine and has gone upstairs to bed. I wouldn’t say it’s taken all our worries away but it’s certainly reduced some of our day-to-day concerns.”
“It’s hard to explain to someone who isn’t in a similar position what it’s like having an elderly parent who lives on their own. It’s not so much that it’s physically demanding, it’s mentally demanding. My first thought when I wake up each day is usually, ‘I wonder if mum’s OK’. Because of her hearing problems it’s difficult to talk to her on the phone now, so the 3rings Plug has been a godsend. For what it costs us I think it’s fantastic value. I don’t know what we’d do without it now.”