Caring for your elder parent, spouse, or adult child can be challenging to say the least. What do you need more of? Time to care for you and your own family while having the peace of mind knowing your loved one is well cared for. The less caregiving responsibility you have the more time there is to be a son, daughter, grandchild or parent.
As baby boomers we are also looking for apps to help manage our lifestyle and health challenges. We can certainly take advantage of these tools.
Making memories and enjoying quality time is the most important thing. Keeping your aging parent or special needs adult family member as independent as possible is an added bonus. We want our loved ones to feel they still have a purpose and can have control in as many areas as possible to preserve their dignity. You want to make sure they have all the help they need to stay healthy and comfortable, but you also don't want to be a nag.
If you're like me, you are worried about your parents as they age. This blog post will focus on apps that can make everyone’s life a bit easier. There are so many apps out there but as a nurse my focus will be on those apps that can serve a day-to-day purpose in maintaining a safe and healthy lifestyle for those entrusted to your care.
Thankfully, there are some great apps out there that can help make managing your parents' care easier than ever. Keep in mind that different apps will work better for different people, so be sure to try out a few and see what works best for you and your family. Here are five categories of apps to check out so let’s get to it.
I will put out a disclaimer right up front with the use of apps. Some of the people we care for might not be able to use the apps themselves. There may be a learning curve as well to use a device to access the apps. This may be your first hurdle to overcome when deciding to use this type of tool.
1) Grocery Shopping and Meal Prep App
2) Medication Reminder App
3) Communication tools
4) Measuring and Tracking meals and fluid intake app
5) Cognitive Training or Brain Exercises
All prices were current as the date of publication of this blog post. Please check each app for any price changes.
App #1 Grocery Shopping App:
By far this app is my favorite. eMeals. I chose this category to make meal planning and grocery shopping easier even if you have special needs for your diet such as shopping for a diabetic or someone that needs a Heart Healthy diet.
I use this app myself for my family and I truly love it! A 12-month subscription comes out to be about $4.99 per month. Well worth that in my opinion! https://emeals.com/
How it works is you have several options to choose from. Some features I like the most that can support you as caregivers is all the meal plan options. You can choose meals for only 2 people as well as choose types of meal plans for special diets such as heart healthy, low calorie, low carb, etc. This makes it easy to choose meals when health conditions need to be considered.
After selecting the type of meal plan you can now select the recipes you like. You get several to choose from and no shortage of options.
Next it gives you a grocery list of all the items needed to make your meals. The app allows you to “uncheck” those items you already have on hand, and you are left with those items that are needed for your meal recipes.
Here comes the best part! With your grocery list you can send to Walmart or other listed stores in your area to have the store get your groceries ready for pick-up and in some areas for delivery! How cool is that!! This would be such a great help if grocery shopping and meal planning is one of the challenges you face in caregiving. The recipes are easy and quick and offer side dish recipes and ideas to go along with the main course.
You can still assist in the grocery shopping but now they can have a “say” in what they eat and still prepare meals that meet any special health needs.
App #2 Medication Safety and Reminders:
To help maintain medication safety and compliance with taking medications as directed by your doctor or health care provider.
This is a great free app and as a medical professional I love the feature that you can add a “support person” that gets alerted when a missed dose of medication is detected. If you have seen our checklist on knowing when your elder parents may need help in the home, this is one of the big ones. Medication management.
The individual will get personal reminders when to take each medication. There is obviously some set-up required in the beginning but well worth the effort! The app will share any warnings or interactions with other medications and can be shared with your provider or health care professional. You have everything listed on your phone in the app and your doctor can see what you are currently taking and when the last time you took your medications. This is HUGE, many people have more than one doctor or health care professional.
The common issue is that you or your loved one may have several doctors prescribing medications. Some may have a generic name and others a trade name and you may not know they are the same. It is important for all doctors and health care professionals to know ALL the medications and supplements you are taking so duplicates and medications that interact with others are avoided.
This is a great way to make sure everyone is on the same page with the list of medications. It is available at all times right at your fingertips. No more carrying around several “lists” to try and have an accurate account of your medications.
Another feature is a reminder to get refills. Many people may have their refills already set up with their clinic and pharmacy, but I see this feature especially helpful for those medications that are taken on an “as needed” basis when they may not be taken daily and there is not a set time when they will run out.
This app uses GoodRx as a feature which will help with coupons and advise of any discounts available on the medications. This is also a good feature. In the hospital setting we use the GoodRx coupons a lot to give to our patients to help with medication costs. It is not insurance however often gets you a reduced price if the medication may not be covered by your insurance or Medicare coverage.
App #3 Improving Communication:
Keeping in touch with family and friends to avoid feelings of isolation.
https://www.messenger.com/ Is a free app you can use with children or adults. (Messenger for Kids app) You can manage safety controls of who they can send and receive messages from. You can send files and images such as photos. You can even call on messenger. The best part of the messenger app is that you can do all of this for free.
One of the nice benefits of messenger is that you can connect grandparents with grandchildren. I love this app. My grandkids have it on their tablets or phones and we can message back to each other at any time. It opens the lines of communication and makes it easy to reach out “just because”. A little more dexterity will be needed to use this app however unlike the grandpad.
Grandpad by Consumer Cellular:
29.00 down and 5.00 per month for 24 months or a full price of $149.00 to purchase the devices. The monthly subscription after that is 40.00 per month with unlimited data usage. This might be a better choice than a smart phone and less intimidating for an elderly person. You can customize the apps. One person is in charge as administrator and can customize or place any type of controls on the device. You can customize who they can connect with to avoid any unwanted people or companies to contact them for fear of scams etc. The grandpad can also send reminders and alerts for events and if the pad has not been used recently.
The grandpad has large icons and button touching features using less typing. Photos, video calling, internet browsing, music without ads, and mobile access with a smart phone app. I like their 30-day money back guarantee if it does not work out. I know we have tried to get my mother-in-law to use one and she absolutely refuses.
App #4 Fitness and Monitor their food intake and fluids:
Making sure your family member is eating and getting enough fluids during the day. Dehydration and weight loss can be a major health concern for an aging parent. It is important that we can keep an eye on the nutritional habits of people we care about most. Some of the apps will actually remind you to eat. Other apps track your fluid intake which is super important for our elderly. We can’t tell you how often we see elderly patients with either a primary or secondary diagnosis of dehydration. We must consider with our elders they may be on medication that could dry them out such as their “water” pills to help keep off excess fluid for a heart condition. In the winter they may not be as warm and so will tend to drink less. If they have been ill with vomiting or diarrhea this also could lead to a lace of hydration.
For a pain pro version Healthi has voice control options which may be easier to record meals and fluid intake.
A food tracker reminder app may be all that is needed. Most of the food tracking apps are weight loss based. Here we are just wanting to make sure what meals are consumed and how much fluid intake is recorded daily. The weight tracking feature may be a good idea to get a heads up on if your loved one is beginning to lose weight unintentionally.
The EatWise app may be a good choice for meal tracking as it has a reminder feature to eat and will track how long it has been since the last meal. Does not track water intake and this is very important, so this failed as a good “over-all app” app for me, but I love the reminder feature.
If monitoring fluid intake is the only issue, there are reminder and tracking apps for water/fluid intake. There are several hydration tracking apps out there and many are very similar. Some are specific to iPhone or Android use.
In this category, last but not least, Cronometer is an app that will track everything but is not a reminder app. It is a very comprehensive app and has a lot of great features including a health professional app. You can customize what you would like to track. It has a free version and a paid upgraded version for about $45 per year.
App #5 Brain Training:
Helping to keep cognition sharp and exercise the brain! Exercising the brain is just as important as exercise for the body. You don’t use it you lose it. Boredom, lack of social interaction, lack of brain stimulation can increase the cognitive deficits of our aging population. With our seniors, it is very important to try and keep their minds busy and active.
https://www.brainhq.com/ There are free exercises available as well as a paid version. What I like about this app is that it is science and evidenced based. It is developed by a group of neurologists and that appeals to me as a healthcare professional. I like how the company referred this app as a gym work-out for your brain.
This app also can customize what brain exercises or brain games you need the most. I love this feature. You can also customize your program based on your desires. It is a bit more costly. It is $14.00 per month or with an annual subscription it is $96.00 per year which comes out to $8.00 per month.
A second choice would be Elevate. They have 40 exercises in various categories of brain training similar to Brain HQ. This app is an Apple App of the Year Award Winner. The Elevate app does have a free version as well as an upgraded paid version. This app would also be appropriate for adults and children. The games work on speech, math skills, vocabulary, writing skills, and reading.
This app has a 14-day free trial but then is about $40.00 per year.
Cognifit: This is a very robust app and will even provide cognitive assessments. It has a health care professional version as well.
19.99 per month for 20 games
29.99 per month for 60+ games with a 75% discount for multiple users in one family. You can pay 49.99 for an assessment of cognitive needs. There is also a health care provider version.
Last in this category is Luminosity. This app is free. They do offer a test to help you determine what types of games would be best for you. There are 3 games per day and will offer some insights and tracking capabilities. Not as robust as the other apps but certainly can make a difference and is free. If cost is prohibitive than this app may be the best option for you.
There you have it! There are so many apps out there and you may have to take a bit of time to see which ones will work best for you and your family.
Our blog post on 5 categories of apps to make your life easier while taking care of your elderly parent was well-received. We’re so happy that we could provide some helpful resources and tips for those in this difficult situation. If you missed it, be sure to subscribe to our email list so you don’t miss our next blog post. Again, we want to remind you that we are here to help match the right resources for the right reasons; don’t hesitate to reach out if there is anything else we can do for you.
Feel free to like, share, or comment on this post and let us know what other questions or needs you have when it comes to caring for an aging parent, spouse or special needs child. See you back here soon!