health

'It has given me so much peace.' 5 women on deciding care options for a loved one.

Intelicare
Thanks to our brand partner, Intelicare

"Don’t worry, I won’t put you and Dad in a home." 

That was what my 11-year-old daughter Ivy said to me when we left the nursing home where her grandmother, my husband’s mother, now lives. 

At 95, she’s actually fit and healthy, but dementia as well as the subsequent physical frailty and memory loss has meant that she now needs full-time care. 

It’s hard to explain to an 11-year-old the complexities of aged care. 

Trying to articulate that most people aren’t in care because their families don’t want them. It’s that they are vulnerable and need to be safe. 

What Ivy sees even in this particularly swanky aged care home is the sadness of people in out-of-home care. 

"People are happier at home," Ivy smiled as she grabbed my hand. "I think I’ll keep you at home with me."

My 11-year-old is right. 

People are happier at home, but age and disability can mean that many vulnerable people end up in residential aged care earlier than families would have hoped. To date there has been very few supports or systems available to keep people in their homes and to also keep them safe.

InteliCare is a new technology on the market designed to support people who are ageing or with a disability, and their families, who want to live independently.  

InteliCare can be your in-house support worker, by monitoring your loved one's wellbeing 24/7 via an app. It is not obtrusive: there are no cameras, and no wiring needed; but instead discreet sensors throughout the house that gathers information on movement, activity levels, temperature and other factors, so you can monitor the safety of your loved one. 

The software used on these sensors relay information about how things are going for your parent or loved one: are they preparing a meal? Are they leaving the house to attend their appointments? How can we make sure I'm notified if they've had a fall, or if their nighttime bathroom visits are becoming more frequent?

InteliCare's app to monitor your loved one's routines. Image: InteliCare.

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This kind of system could have been a game-changer for Annabel, 54 who just moved her mother into residential care. 

"I knew that the house that Mum was in was too big for her, and was causing her a lot of stress. I would have liked Mum to stay at home. To stay at home she would have more one-on-one care with family members, and people coming in her home on a daily basis just to keep an eye on her and help her with things. 

"Now that she's in a nursing home, those daily interactions with those closest to her are no longer possible."

Annabel lived two hours from her mother’s house. This distance in case of an emergency like a fall or not eating regular meals was a key factor in choosing an aged care facility outside of the home. 

This is where the InteliCare system can alert family members on a shared app when there are changes to your loved ones routines around the home, or if emergencies occur so that they can respond accordingly.

Bianca is 56. She has a full life with two boys and lectures at University. She feels fortunate that her 95-year-old mother still drives and cooks for herself. 

"She still even manages all her financial affairs!" says Bianca. 

"She has started to get a little bit of help around the home including someone who comes in cleans for her, and someone who occasionally comes and works in the garden or cleans the leaves out of her gutters. These are important things for my mum and having someone come in means that she still feels proud about her home. 

"At this point we are not thinking that she needs to go somewhere else, however it is always in the back of our mind that something could happen any day, and all we want is for her to be safe. We would prefer she stays in her home for as long as she can. She has an amazingly strong social network who I believe would rally around her being in the home."

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All of the women I spoke to lived a few hours away from their ageing parent. 

Relocating for many is not an option; they may have little kids starting school or teenagers finishing at school, established jobs, partners, or a mortgage. 

Georgie 48 is single and is child-free, so she says she's in a better position to care for her Dad than her two sisters. 

At 48, she’s at the top of her profession in the entertainment industry with a job in management that takes her around the country. Pandemic lockdowns meant she could work from home, so having an ageing father who she was concerned about, she decided it was a smart move to spend lockdown with him. She relocated across the country to live with her dad Geoff, a feisty 87-year-old with early stages of dementia.

Georgie’s year with Geoff gave her an insight into how he lives, what his strengths are and his areas needing an extra had, and what the risks are. While he could live independently for a little longer, he needs support in place and requires daily contact and care from a drop in worker, community member or friend.

Georgie is concerned about what will happen when she has to go back to work – which could be anywhere in Australia.

"I am really concerned about having to leave. I have been here for a year now and I am acutely aware of Dad’s needs. He’s okay on many levels but he can’t drive anymore. He is also unsteady on his feet. He doesn’t like being told what to do so he’s exactly the kind of guy who will get up on a stool to change a light globe if it blows.

"He doesn’t like strangers in his house either. He is proud of being 87 and living independently. He refuses outright to ever have a conversation about out-of-home care. We have to find a way to keep him here, and safe, as long as we can. 

"My sisters are in denial about how he is, but I have been here for a year with him every day so I know. I feel very unsupported sometimes, like I can’t go out and see friends or do anything because something could happen to Dad. It’s really wearing me out. I want him to be safe but I need support. I feel very alone in caring for my father."

A system like InteliLiving could give Georgie the support she needs. 

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It would also mean her two sisters who have been distant from the hands-on care (and their remote locations) could participate in their father's day-to-day and provide some of the support. While Geoff would definitely benefit from in-home solutions like drop-in care from a support worker, InteliCare could be the system that gives him the independence he wants, but also allows his daughters more peace of mind. 

Through the monitoring of behaviour, family members can get alerted to anything out of the norm that can then get passed onto a GP and prevent a serious health event. UTIs are very common in seniors and without being treated, they can lead to a health crisis or fall. Intelicare’s solution can help prevent these events from occurring.

This can help take the worry away from loved ones as they stay in touch with each other.

It would also allow Georgie some freedom to engage more in her life again, with less stress and strain.

Denise is the mother of 35-year-old Sally with a significant disability. Born with a genetic condition that affects her hearing, sight, mobility and digestion, Sally is in need of constant care. 

Denise at 70 is looking towards what retirement will look like. She currently runs a law firm and uses a care worker to support Sally when Denise is at the office. 

Denise currently lives with Sally and is her primary carer. The plan for Denise is to set up Sally living independently with a 24 hour care roster. The idea is to find a living companion who may also have a disability, and who might share the care. 

Denise likes the idea of what InteliCare provides, and that it promotes independence without losing privacy. 

"InteliCare is such a great idea, it would be very useful for me and a lot of other women in my position."

InteliCare is an affordable system that is changing the lives of vulnerable people and their families. 

Having a loved one living with a disability and feeling concerns for their safety might often mean that many people feel their only option may opting into residential care solutions when they would have dearly loved to live at home for some time longer. 

Ailsa uses a wheelchair and InteliCare she says is keeping her at home. 

"I would recommend InteliCare to all adults with disability who live alone as it would give them and their family members peace of mind."

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Peace of mind is exactly what it’s given to family members, just like Helen too. 

Helen says, "I am able to check on Mum whenever I feel the need. I’m not worrying constantly about how she is going as I am able to check my app. It is a very simple to use and fantastic system."

Helen and mother Maureen. Image: InteliCare.

We can’t know what’s ahead for any of us. Most of us are introduced to the role of being carers for elderly parents and loved ones without forewarning or feeling prepared, or ever having had the conversation about how best to manage a loved one's loss of independence. 

What we do know is that in many cases, people want to stay in their homes as long as possible. InteliCare makes what felt impossible, now a real possibility. 

Older people and those living with disabilities are such valued members of our community. Let's empower them to living safe, independent lives for as long as they'd like possible.

We can facilitate independence, and we can keep them safe. 

Now that's a win for dignity on every level.

Feature Image: Getty.

Intelicare
It’s time to worry less, and care more about your senior parents living at home alone.