Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Keep your loved one safe & independent with the Famil.Care apps & SOS/Fall Alert button

I had a colleague once whose mum had dementia. I will never forget the weariness and worry in his face as time and time again he got calls from a neighbour or the police saying she had been found, frightened and vulnerable somewhere.

I'm lucky that my mum is active and independent and although my stepdad has health issues, he most definitely has all his marbles!

madmumof7 with parents
Madmumof7 pictured  (centre) with mum and stepdad.

However mum has already curtailed her activities to a certain degree  because he isn't able to be completely independent and as time goes by she worries that he might fall or have a problem while she's at her choir rehearsal or Tai Chi.

 He's already had one fall that we know of while simply taking rubbish to the outdoor bin. We came back to the house after a short trip out to find him with grazes and bruises. Luckily he'd managed to get himself up and back indoors to safety

Luckily I've found out about a new service which gives both of them independence whilst offering my mum reassurance that even if anything happened while she was out, she (or I, or anyone else we added to the service) would be alerted immediately.

Famil.Care is aimed at the time-poor, stressed sandwich generation (yep, parents like you and me), who want peace of mind knowing that their loved ones - be that kids, parents or even grandparents - are safe. 

The creator of Famil.Care developed the technology when his mother developed dementia. He wanted to enable her to have a more independent life for as long as possible. 

This service is not just for the elderly or frail however. Someone in your family, young or old, at risk from anaphylactic shocks, epileptic fits or diabetic hypo/hyper episodes? This would be ideal for you.

So, how does it work?
Basically, it's an app which works as a central hub which you download to your phone (iOS or android) with a simplified companion app and a wearable SOS/fall detection button for the loved one you want to keep in touch with. (via Android only at the moment but I'm told the iOS app is coming soon)
Famil.Care app and SOS fall indicator button

You choose a monthly package which suits your particular needs (generally costing around £5-£6 a month) to receive alerts about the person or people with the linked phone.

What can it do?
Some of the reassuring services Famil.Care can offer:
  • Receive an alert from a loved one if they are in distress - a shake of a phone or a push of the button (which is supplied) - immediately alerts you to a problem
  • Multiple family members can be alerted e.g. if you don't respond, your sibling or partner will then be alerted too
  • Accurate GPS location in event of a problem
  • Immediately connect to your loved one's phone to listen and speak in event of emergency via the microphone on their device
  • Remotely manage contacts and calendar and send personal voice reminders - whether it be for medicine or appointment reminders

My favourite feature, given that I have an older parent at risk of falls AND a son who has suffered blackouts and fits in the past is the wearable button which cleverly detects if someone wearing it falls and sends an alert to the people registered.

My son tried this out by faking some falls. After some fiddling to fine tune the settings it was very nice to know I would get an alert and a text if a fall was detected, then I could use the speaker button built into the app to check up on him.

There is a short deliberate delay in sending the alert with a sound indicator and countdown for the person wearing he button to cancel the alert if for instance they simply dropped the button!

We also liked the ability to set safe zones so if your loved one accidentally wanders out of it you will receive an alert. I would like to see that zone more adjustable to a smaller zone. At the moment it appears to only allow you to set a radius of 300m and more.
screenshots from Famil.Care Nexus app

The one over our home covers practically our entire village and my son had to walk past a pond and cross a busy road before he was out of his safe zone. The GPS tracker was quite accurate and doesn't require wifi or data to work.

The safe zone aspect could also be handy for children - you could check your daughter got to her friend's house safely or make sure your son made it to school on time. Safe zones can be colour coded and set temporarily or permanently or you can set it for specific times and/or days so for instance on Friday evenings I could check my daughter arrived at her youth club from school rather than making her text me when she gets there.

Now I will admit, we had some trouble initially setting up the two apps - partly because the instructions are a bit basic and seem to have been translated from another language. However there is an excellent free helpline which I called and got one to one help from a very friendly assistant.

How do you set it all up?

The first step is easy. You go to the Famil.Care website to register and choose your package and order your button if you want one.

Then you download the NEXUS app to your phone and the Senior or Junior app to the phone for the person you want alerts about. Then you open one of the apps and pair the button via bluetooth.

The senior/junior apps are simplified, designed for those who might not be so familiar with using technology. The app starts automatically on their phone so they don't have to look for it and with the optional Senior Simple service, the app can replace their usual home screen so they can easily get in touch with you or any contacts you add for them.

Meanwhile the NEXUS app on your phone will monitor their phone's battery life, let you know if the button unpairs and allow you to set up reminders and memos for your loved one about medications, hospital appointments or whatever else they need to remember!

Tell me more about the SOS/Fall Indicator Button.
The button can be worn on the lanyard supplied round the neck or you could use the clip supplied to attach it to a belt, backpack or coat pocket. It's small and light -around 1 inch in diameter and weighs just 0.3oz. It's also waterproof, has a longlife battery (around 2 years)  and works 24/7 once paired.

Famil.Care SOS and Fall Indicator button

The wearer can use it as a panic button too - pressing it will alert the people registered on the NEXUS app.

Overall Impressions
On the whole I am impressed with the capabilities of the Famil.Care service and think it's incredibly reassuring to be able to check on your loved ones quickly and easily. The speakerphone aspect worked exceptionally well, enabling me to contact the other person quickly after receiving an alert.

I do think there are a few wrinkles to iron out.

I'd like to see more comprehensive instructions. We couldn't work out if there was a way of reducing the safe zones for example. The free helpline was useful but a bit of work on the in-app wizard and settings to make them more detailed and user friendly would be very helpful.

I'd very much like to hear a sound when I receive an alert. It would be nice to be able to choose the sound too so if I was using the service for both my parents AND my son for instance, I would know who the alert was about.

Despite these niggles I believe s Famil.Care could well be a life-saver, quite literally, for families with vulnerable members.

I think the price is very reasonable for the service on offer.  I would happily spend the cost of two posh coffees a month for peace of mind about my family.

Top Tip -you get a discount if you buy 12 months upfront and you can even customise the service to get exactly what you need from it.

Disclaimer: We trialled Famil.Care Senior free for the purpose of this review.








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