Need recommendations -- patient to caregiver alarm or alert

olympiceagleApril 9, 2008

This is my first post on this forum. I usually scan the house forums and have found tons of very useful advice there. I only recently noticed the health forum and this caregivers one in particular and am just totally impressed by the caring, compassion, and helpful advice I've seen during just a very brief time. You all are truly angels.

I am the primary caregiver at home for my wife, who is in bed for much of the time due to cancer and its related side effects from infusions, medications, etc. She is able to get to an adjacent bathroom fairly well and she is able to shower herself. She is nevertheless rather frail and has fallen twice during the past couple of months, luckily without serious injury. She occasionally will use her walker during medical appointments when she feels especially weak. It's difficult to use the walker at home without much major reorganizing. We live in a fairly large two-story home with all bedrooms upstairs.

Although I am her 24/7 caregiver, there are many times throughout the day when I am in different parts of the house attending to laundry, meal preparation, cleaning, etc. The challenge is to find an effective way for her to let me know that she needs my immediate help. We have tried a variety of ways to communicate. She will try to call out, but I often cannot hear her for a variety of reasons (I'm too far away, her voice is not very strong, or I may be outside to let our dogs out, etc.). She sometimes will telephone our home number using her cell phone, which she keeps in the nightstand next to her bed. That usually works fine. We also purchased a pair of walkie-talkies. I carry one with me all the time. She keeps hers with her cell phone in the nightstand and turns it on only when she needs to contact me. This method works well especially when I'm outside due to the longer range of the radios, but the big disadvantage is that mine frequently needs recharging because it's on all the time. As per Murphy's Law, there have been numerous times she has tried to call me by walkie-talkie radio, only to have mine sitting in the recharger.

I'm trying to find a better way for her to contact me during times when urgency is important. My own thought would be a very simple setup in which she would wear a wristband device (so it could be on her constantly) with a button that she could press to trigger another pager-like device that I could carry in my pocket. We wouldn't need to converse as per the telephone or walkie-talkies. All I would need is an audible alert that would let me know to go to her. A workable range of about 100 yards would cover most situations.

We're not talking about the LifeAlert type systems for people who live alone. I have seen some other devices online, but the receivers are either too large to carry or are not designed to be carried, or are more like radios that would have the same challenge of replacing or recharging batteries all the time. I've seen some devices with a range of 100 feet, but that might not be enough. We've thought of whistles, but it would be a challenge for her to generate the degree of loudness to cover some scenarios we face.

To summarize:

-- A simple transmitter that she can wear 24/7 and activate easily

-- A receiver that I can put in a pants pocket and not have to replace or recharge batteries every day or two

-- Range of about 100 yards

Does anyone know of such devices as I have described, or something similar?

I apologize for this very long post. Thanks in advance!

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I'll tell you what happened in our house. It might give you an idea.

I had had serious back surgery that left me unable to get out of bed by myself or even turn over. My husband had to turn me ever two hours and he was dead for sleep. I needed to be turned, and he had gone to sleep in the recliner in the den. He couldn't hear me. I phoned my DIL and asked her to call the house and let it ring until he woke up. She got her little 3yr old daughter to call him. When he finally anwered, that sweet little baby voice told him "Papa, Mema wants you in the bedroom." He didn't do that again.

Anyway, the result of that day, My DIL brought me a LOUD bicycle horn. One of those with a squeeze bulb thingie..I swear he should have been able to hear it in the back yard. Her grandmother had used it when she was confined to bed. It could be heard all over the house. I kept it on the bed next to my pillow. Everytime I was shifted, the horn was shifted too.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 5:29PM
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Thanks for the suggestion. Sometimes the best solution is the simplest. The horn would be somewhat of a problem for us. Although I didn't go into more detail (the post was long enough!), my wife is sensitive to loud noises. The doctors think it's most likely a side effect from her medications. That was another disadvantage of the whistle idea. Thanks for the reply!

    Bookmark   April 12, 2008 at 4:02PM
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I can see that a horn would be a problem then.

I can't remember much of the details, but one system I read about had TWO receivers. One was sitting in the charger while the other was being used. Maybe it was two separate phones/buzzers/whatever that were alternated each day. Something like that might work if you can't find exactly what you need.

Good luck. I know that peace of mind is so important for both of you. Take care!

    Bookmark   April 12, 2008 at 7:11PM
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Interesting gadget that you desire to find. I have never heard of anything like that. I'm guessing that anything that can receive a walkie talkie/cell phone type signal is going to need to be charged every couple of days simply because it has to be on all the time.

Can you put the charger somewhere where you will see it every evening on your way to bed, and get in the habit of charging up when you go to bed every night? That's what I do with my cell phone and it works well. Maybe a cell phone in your pocket would hold a charge longer than a walkie talkie would? If the item your using has an old battery or is an older model, a new battery or a new device will probably hold a charge a lot longer, since the technology improves dramatically all the time.

Perhaps you could rig up some sort of wristband or lanyard that would hold your wife's cell phone? If she has trouble with the cell phone being too hard to dial in an emergency, there are simple cell phones designed for the elderly or the technophobic that just dial a couple of preset numbers, and you could program your cell phone into that and carry your cell in your pocket all the time.

Just some suggestions. Maybe someone inventive will design and market a device like you need? I hope so. Good luck.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2008 at 8:19PM
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What about putting the walkie talkie charger by your wife's bed, and when a unit needs recharging, YOU get the fresh one, and the stale one goes into the charger within your wife's reach. If she needs you, there ought to be enough juice for a quick call.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2008 at 6:56PM
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There are baby monitors out there that have a portable set for the parent, some even come with more than one portable which sounds like it might work for you. The portables usually have a belt clip so you can easily take it with you. I am sure if you do an online search you could find one. That way the base is always by your wife and you can move about the home..............
Linda J

    Bookmark   April 17, 2008 at 8:34AM
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Many thanks to all for your wonderful suggestions! I've already adopted some of the walkie-talkie suggestions by watergal and sweeby, and plan to do some research on lindajewell's baby monitor idea. Thanks again!

    Bookmark   April 20, 2008 at 5:53AM
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