We recently had the opportunity to try a fall detector for the elderly that connects to a smartphone. Rob’s mum hasn’t been in the best of health recently and had a fall a while ago. But she (and we) are keen that she maintains her independence. So we were keen to try the app Famil.care offered.
Famil.care app to protect seniors
Rob’s mum is very independent, and loves to be out and about as much as possible. She’s in her 70s, and is not always in the best of health. Beryl doesn’t let that stop her and will be out even when she should be tucked up having a duvet day! A while ago Beryl was in Morrisons and had a fall. She was taken to the hospital and checked over, and was in there for less than a day but long enough for us to miss her and not know her whereabouts. As Beryl is deaf she doesn’t usually carry a mobile phone, so she didn’t have a way for them to contact us. Her landline phone is a special phone she can hear even without her hearing aids (I have no idea how that works, it just does).
Smartphone technology to connect families
Famil.care works by connecting seniors and their families via smartphone technology. There are two apps; one for the elderly person (Android only) and one for the family members who want to keep an eye on their senior. Also provided is a fall detector button, that is 100% waterproof with an accelerator in to alert in case of falls.
Connection between smartphones
The clever part was that I could set up Beryl’s phone using my phone. I simply added photos and phone numbers, and they magically appeared on Beryl’s phone shortly afterward. We did have a problem when Beryl asked for her friend’s number to be added, and it didn’t appear on the Senior screen at all – it still hasn’t gone a couple of weeks later so I’m not sure what’s gone wrong there.
The apps synch across the phones automatically. For the trial Rob and I could both monitor Beryl using the one Famil.care account.
For Beryl’s phone, we borrowed an android mobile phone for the duration of the trial. She learned quickly how to swipe up to unlock the phone, and then the Senior app is opened right away. Beryl LOVED the simple interface. As far as she saw, there were photos of the people she might want to phone, and a very quick method to call or text them. She really didn’t need to go elsewhere in the phone and as the app opened first, everything was right there.
As we had borrowed a normal Android phone, it didn’t work very well for Beryl as she’s deaf. So she couldn’t hear the normal ringtone when we called her. However, the app has a feature via which you can call your loved one, and they don’t need to touch the phone at all to answer it. Beryl could hear that ringtone, and we could control the volume from our phones so that she could hear us speaking and reply.
Monitor elderly people using smartphone technology
I mentioned before that Beryl loves to get out and about, and so one of the features we liked was the GPS location tracker. You can set up “safe zones” which alerts you when your loved one leaves or enters them. I only set up one safe zone for Beryl, which was a 1km circle around her house. Then we’d basically know when she was going out, so we could give her a ring if we were also going out and see if she needed a lift, for example.
This feature did not often work. During the trial period I got about 3 alerts of “Geo Fence In” and only one or two Beryl going out. If you had a parent with dementia you might rely on this feature a bit more heavily than we were, so I hope the developers are able to make any necessary adjustments to this soon.
Phone signal plays a bit part in monitoring elderly
On Monday Beryl phoned Rob and said that she was at the doctors. He knew she wanted a lift so he popped the boys in the car and drove the 5 minutes down the road to her GP surgery. No Beryl. He waited, and then unloaded the boys and went inside the doctors. No Beryl. So he began to panic a bit.
He couldn’t phone her, the app showed that it was disconnected, and calling via the app was not possible either. Beryl’s phone must have had no signal. We thought that she would pop up on the next street or something. She didn’t, and in fact didn’t turn up for another hour – at home. The app didn’t reconnect until Beryl plugged her phone in. It was a worrying time, and actually the failure of the app caused a lot more stress than if we’d not used any technology.
The Famil.Care subscription costs £69.90 per year (up front) and includes the fall detector button. This was sent to Beryl’s house, to much excitement. We were all really hoping that this app would work and that it would provide some peace of mind, while maintaining Beryl’s freedom. The button is the size of a 50p coin and about a finger-width wide. It’s lightweight, and comes with a shaped “bit of wire” as Beryl called it. The wire slides on to the button, and then it can be clipped on to clothing. Alternatively it has a hole in the top, which you can thread a ribbon or lanyard.
The button can be pressed to automatically call the connected phone, in case of an emergency. It has an accelerator inside so that in case of a fall it would also call the connected phone. We found that it did that only once, during an initial test, and otherwise would not stay connected to the Senior phone. Unfortunately this meant that every minute (I’m not exaggerating – every single minute) it sent a notification to my iPhone saying that the button was disconnected.
As we live quite near to Beryl, we were able to go to reconnect it, but if you live in a different country and are relying on this as a fall detector, I’m afraid you’d be very worried and disappointed. Beryl is not especially frail, but found the button quite hard to press, so asking her to reconnect it wasn’t possible.
Overall, we were disappointed that this app just didn’t work for us. We really love the concept, and hope that we were just unlucky with the connectivity problems we experienced. I will say that the help centre are very good, and really tried hard to resolve the issues we were having.