For carers or loved ones of those with dementia, different abilities, mobility issues or even just age-related fragility, one of the biggest challenges can be balancing the individual’s desire for independence, with the practical need to protect them and be assured they’re safe.
Christine, whose husband John was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, talks about the internal struggle she faced when considering how to support her once-successful businessman husband.
“His independence is very important to him,” she recalls. “I didn’t want him to lose his quality of life by not being able to do the simple things like walking from our home to his community support group by himself – the basic things, the things we all take for granted.”
Searching for a solution that would extend monitoring of John’s whereabouts beyond their home, Christine came across the Find-me Watch. This Australian-designed personal emergency alarm has been specifically developed around the wearer’s needs based on a decade of working with industry experts, and feedback from users and their carers and families.
The Find-me team clearly understand the ageing community as there are no complicated touchscreens or settings for the wearer to navigate through. They simply need to charge the device and wear it. This makes it one of the easiest solutions for those with dementia, the elderly or people that have difficulties mastering more complex technology.
Christine says that the Find-me Watch has given her husband a degree of independence, while helping her to feel confident that help is there, if and when he needs assistance.
“With the Find-me Watch, John is now able to walk across the park to the support centre on his own and I have peace of mind knowing he is safe when I am not with him,” she says.
Users of the Find-me Watch can also choose to have the wearer monitored by Tunstall, one of the world’s largest and most-trusted service providers of assisted living technology. Tunstall’s 24-hour monitoring centre is staffed by trained care consultants who can assist the wearer if they press the alert button, have a fall or move outside pre-set safety zones.
Christine recalls their assistance on a recent family trip to Melbourne. “Tunstall were very helpful asking us to confirm our residing address and they were able to pinpoint exactly where John was,” she explains.
The wearable technologies market, which includes watches, phones, clothes and other devices, has seen double-digit growth over the past few years, driven in part by global brands such as Apple, Fitbit and Garmin. While global growth was up 27.3 per cent in 2015, it slowed to 10.3 per cent in 2016.
According to research firm IDC, though, “the slowdown is not due to a lack of interest – far from it”.
“Instead, we saw numerous vendors, relying on older models, exit the market altogether,” IDC reports. “At the same time, the remaining vendors – including multiple start-ups – have not only replaced them, but with devices, features, and services that have helped make wearables more integral in people’s lives.”
Anna, the mother of Joe, a young man with Down’s Syndrome, says that her son’s Find-Me Watch has become integral to her son’s life. “It’s just become part of the family,” she says. “He calls it his James Bond watch.”
She explains how one afternoon last year, Joe inadvertently became separated from his carer while on his way home from work.
“Joe was doing transport training at work,” Anna says. “The carer put Joe on the bus at work and then he drove behind the bus to make sure he got home safely.
“On this particular day, the carer had to stop because the lights turned red but the bus went ahead. And Joe thought he was hungry and that he’d stop at the shopping centre and buy himself a milkshake and a cake.
“The poor carer didn’t realise that he’d gotten off at the shops, so he came tearing back home hoping that Joseph would be here, but obviously he wasn’t.”
After a frantic search for Joe, which ultimately led to the police being called for assistance, Joe fortunately found his own way home, and came in through the door, “full of confidence”, Anna says.
“He does do runners,” she adds. “And he had been walking down to the local shop, so I basically knew how long it would take him to get there and get home. But when he did this, we really decided we needed something that we could track him with.”
Joe has had the Find-me Watch for over a year now, and Anna talks about the peace of mind it gives her and her son.
“He doesn’t go anywhere without it. He’ll want to walk down to the local shops, and he’ll say to me, ‘I’ve got my watch’,” she says.
Anna says that Joe’s employer and carers also have the details of the website where they can go to track Joe if he goes missing, which helps all of the key people in Joe’s life support his independence, while ensuring he’s safe.
The fact that the watch just looks like an ‘everyday’ watch is another factor that led Anna to choose the Find-me device.
“We were looking at, ‘what would people actually go after [to steal]. If somebody said to Joseph, ‘give me your mobile phone’, he would just hand it over,” she says.
Anna (and Joe) also love the fact that they can use the watch, like a mobile phone, to keep in touch through the day.
“He can ring myself and my husband, as you can put up to two numbers into the watch” Anna says.
“He usually rings me and says, ‘Have you got my money to go out?’. Or he’ll ring me and say that he wants a fruit juice but no one will let him have a fruit juice. Silly little things but they mean a lot to him.”
Find-me are giving Starts at 60 readers the opportunity to own a Find-me watch with this special offer. The deal gives readers a monthly subscription that includes the SIM card, all voice calls, SMS, data and the watch - everything you need to keep in touch with loved ones for only $39.95 per month. You must enter the code S60 at checkout to receive the monthly subscription deal inclusions for any non-monitored selection.