COLD SPRING, Minn. - New technology is making it easier for the elderly to live independently.
It's called GrandCare. Not only does the program monitor health and medication, it also allows the elderly to stay in communication with caregivers and loved ones.
In his apartment in Cold Spring, Ed Thelen now has this magic window to a healthier world.As he touched a picture of a camera on his GrandCare touch screen he said, "My favorite things is merely touching this little thing and having all these beautiful people available to me."
He's talking about being able to talk to his three kids and six grandkids through a simple touch screen version of Skype. He said it has been beneficial to his emotional health.
He said, "This system has kind of re-birthed me, so to speak."
Thelen, who battles Parkinson's, Diabetes and depression, now sees family who live a minimum of an hour away almost every day.
His grandson, John Volkers, said, "It means a lot to me because I barely get to see my grandpa a lot in real life."
His family can also see if he's taking care of himself.
His daughter, Kerry Volkers, said it's, "Nice to be able to make sure that he's OK. And since we don't get to go see him as often, it feels like he's part of our life on a daily basis."
GrandCare helps families remotely monitor daily activities with sensors that send notifications when pills are taken or when a door is opened.Thelen said, "I can take my blood pressure and that automatically goes onto the system. I can take my glucose."
Brain waves can be monitored for those who have seizures. Motion sensors can detect movement for those who may wander at night. All of it can be monitored remotely by all caregivers, including family and health care professionals.
Deborah Delaney is with Sarah Care, a local home health care service that helped Thelen get the GrandCare system.
Delaney said GrandCare truly relieves the stress on caregivers who want to keep their loved one in their own home. She said, "Many people are working all the time and have to run home how do I know that dad's ok during the day now they can communicate all day long and it's just a peace of mind for people."
And Tom Ardolf of Cybermation which installs GrandCare technology said GrandCare costs much less than the alternative.
Ardolf said, "Literally the cost of this system, in general, is less than one month of an assisted care facility."
With the help of an iPad camera, GrandCare also allows Thelen to watch his grandson play basketball live this past weekend.
Thelen said, "When he came by the bench where my daughter was sitting he looked in the camera and he says, 'Hi grandpa!'"
Thelen said he has a bad short term memory, so the GrandCare reminders to take his meds and to eat healthy for his diabetes are invaluable.He believes he is not only healthier physically, but emotionally too.
Ardolf said GrandCare monitoring costs around $100-$120 a month. Installation averages around $3,500 which may be covered through government assistance.