In a new system, telephone calls twice a day find out how an aging loved one is doing. Then the system reports back the good news or bad.
It's called "FineThanx," which is the answer everyone hopes to get to the check-in calls (www.finethanx.com).
The system makes it possible to get help by doing nothing.
Its developers are rolling the system out throughout the U.S. beginning this month from their headquarters in Sarasota, FL.
Peace of mind is what the father-and-daughter team who created FineThanx are offering clients. The idea for the business stemmed from a personal experience they wish others won't have to go through. "My grandmother fell when she was 99, on a Wednesday, and lay on the floor until Friday morning when the housekeeper came and found her," said Peter Scharff, one of the developers of FineThanx.
To avoid situations such as these, Scharff and his daughter, Rachel, came up with an automated phone service that checks in on clients once or twice daily.
If no one answers, or if a client needs assistance, the system immediately calls a "care circle" of people who can seek care for the client.
If the client is fine, the system sends reassuring e-mail messages to the client's families, friends or health care professionals.
"I looked around realized there were very few systems like this, that are quite low-tech," Scharff said. "It's a way for a non-threatening, friendly, reaching out ... to say hello. And if they are OK, then we move on, and if they are not we alert the family and let them know that there might be a problem."
FineThanx charges $34.95 a month for the service. There is a seven-day free trial period.
It's an affordable and non-technical way to check on an aging relative, minus complicated devices, Rachel Scharff said. This is what sets the FineThanx service apart from other emergency care response services such as alarm buttons which people often don't wear or can't press in case of a fall or other accident. So the new system can work by itself or as a supplement to a panic button.
To sign up, go to www.finethanx.com. After that, all one needs for the service is a phone, Peter Scharff added. That means a lot to the elderly who may not want to learn how to work new devices.
"Many people don't want technology in their homes. They are scared of it," Peter Scharff said. "And there's a dollar issue. People who may be living on a small fixed income don't want to spend a lot of money."
The Scharffs may be on to something. A 2006 study of telephone surveillance of elderly patients living alone in Canada saw that regular phone contact reduced use of home care services, and led to an overall decrease of health and public services costs, according to the journal Health and Quality of Life Outcomes. The study also cited a high satisfaction rate among the users of a telephone contact service and a decreased psychological burden on caregivers.
After reviewing other types of emergency care response systems, Rachel Scharff said FineThanx's phone system makes sense.
"There is no equipment. It supplements panic buttons. You can get help by doing nothing."
They may be reluctant to use buttons
It's one thing to subscribe to a service which gives you a button to push in case of emergency. It's another to wear or carry the button - and fewer than half of the subscribers don't, according to one study.
This is an important issue. Some 300,000 older adults in the U.S. fall each year while living alone. And they're down for an average of 4.5 hours. (From a study of women 80 years or older by Ellen J. Porter, PhD, RN, in the Journal of Gerontological Nursing.)
The study interviewed several users of the buttons, and found they took off the unit when going outdoors, or when showering or bathing although some of the units were waterproof. Some users found the buttons unsightly, and this discouraged usage. "Every woman in the study wore her button without pleasure," the study said, and one called it "A badge of dishonor."
FineThanx.com works by itself or as a complement to panic buttons, and thinks of its telephone calls as a supplement - or a necessity when a client won't carry the buttons or won't subscribe to the alerting service.
What the system sounds like
Here's what the client hears when his or her phone rings: (Musical tone) This is FineThanx calling to see how you are. If you are ok, press 1, for assistance press 2. (If the loved one pressed 1 they would then hear:) Glad to hear it, make every day independence day with FineThanx. (If the loved one pressed 2 they would then hear:) OK, please hang up and FineThanx will contact your Care Circle. If this is an emergency call 911.
If the loved one pressed 1, telling the system they are fine, then the system emails the care circle: "Hi! We are pleased to let you know that at 9:02 a.m. EDT Thursday, April 1, 2010, (Name) answered a FineThanx call and pressed 1 for OK! The next scheduled call is 6 p.m. EDT Thursday, April 1, 2010."
If the client pressed 2 for help, or didn't answer, then the Care Circle is called with the following message: Hello, this is FineThanx Calling. (Automated voice speaks the loved one's name) has requested assistance, and we have been unable to reach anyone else in the Care Circle. If you are able to help, press 1 if you cannot press 2.
FineThanx is headquartered at 1990 Main St., Suite 750, Sarasota FL 34236. Telephone 941-306-4848. Email email@example.com
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