Robichaux: New technology enhances Visiting Angels senior care
Published 7:14 am Saturday, August 17, 2019
I’ve thought a lot lately about the generational shift in my own family, as those who were my childhood caretakers have become the people needing care in recent years.
My grandparents are turning 86 and 88 this fall. They have five children, ten grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren thus far, with the five youngest all born within the past 24 months. Even with such a large family, my mother and her sisters take on a lot of responsibility individually to keep their parents company each day and help them stay on track with medications. Yet, they can’t be there 24/7.
It’s a family structure shared by many. According to national population statistics, the United States has 50 million seniors ages 65 and up, comprising 16 percent of the population. Approximately 12 million seniors live at home alone and might require extra support to maintain a relatively independent lifestyle.
This week, I learned about an opportunity that could make River Parishes seniors living alone among the first in the country to use a high-tech personal assistant capable of giving verbal reminders to take medicine, entertaining with interactive games and, most importantly, calling for help within seconds of an emergency.
WiFi, phone service and wearable medical necklaces are not required to use a voice-controlled Constant Companion personal assistant, which works with Amazon Alexa devices.
Visiting Angels, an in-home care provider that services the River Region, is the first to install Constant Companion in local seniors’ homes. Only those who are patients of Visiting Angels are eligible.
Stationed at 1929 Hickory Ave., Visiting Angels of Greater New Orleans help seniors remain comfortably independent with hourly, overnight and 24-hour care. Services can include friendly companionship, personal care, hygiene assistance, meal planning and preparation, light housekeeping, laundry assistance, medication reminders, and assistance running errands.
Local Visiting Angels caregivers can help families customize the Constant Companion technology to fit the needs of their loved ones.
From personal experience, Constant Companion president and founder Mark Gray realized many seniors forget or refuse to wear push-button medical alert necklaces. He said Constant Companion is an alternative that creates a safer environment.
“Constant Companion helps seniors respond to Alexa in a physical and emotional way, by exercising their mind, body and spirit, each and every day,” Gray said. “Our system is really making an impact on their quality of life.”
The words “Alexa, call for help!” connect a senior to a Constant Companion emergency response operator within 10 seconds. The operators gain immediate access to the seniors’ address and have the ability to alert local first responders.
Constant Companion can also be personalized for daily check-in calls with live operators. Visiting Angels representatives may choose to add family telephone numbers to the system allowing seniors to call family members by name.
Just like a traditional Alexa device, Constant Companion can serve as an intercom speaker in the home, allowing seniors in a bedroom to talk to caregivers or family in the living room or kitchen. The program also comes with interactive games including Jeopardy and Who Wants to be a Millionaire.
According to company leaders, the software operates on an independent, secure network separate from Amazon operations. Each user is 100 percent anonymous, protected by HIPAA compliant security.
Larry Meigs, president and CEO of Visiting Angels, said Constant Companion is a modern spin on medical alert technology.
“By adding this device to our list of caregiving tools, we are enhancing the services we already provide to thousands of American families, especially when it comes to emergency calls for help and keeping relatives informed and involved in the lives of their elderly loved ones,” Meigs said.
For more information on Visiting Angels, please visit www.visitingangels.com/gno.
Brooke Robichaux is news editor for L’OBSERVATEUR. She can be reached at 985-652-9545.