senseaide seniors caregiversTwo and a half years ago, Sri Rao’s mother-in-law had a stroke. The event left her with almost no mobility on her left side — and with a great need for the attention of caregivers.

“It turned all of our lives upside down,” Rao told VentureBeat.  Ultimately, the stroke inspired and motivated Rao to start working on SenseAide, a startup that focuses on the health needs of senior citizens and the information needs of their caregivers.

While helping his mother-in-law recover from her stroke, Rao said, “We worked with many caregivers and found three main challenges that we really struggled with: the need to improve communication between caregivers, the need to provide care oversight when she was home alone and the need to track activity — to make sure she did her physical therapy, took her medication, etc..”

To confront these challenges, Rao worked with home care agencies and nurses to find out how technology could help. “I got a lot of support from some forward-thinking people,” said Rao, “and over this period, SenseAide evolved into a solution that is effective and affordable.”

SenseAide’s products are focused on collecting and communication actionable information to specific types of caregivers who are willing and able to respond in any way necessary.

The company’s services so far include a two-way video communication device that requires no input from the senior citizen, a web-based tool for video calling and recording information from the call, and an array of sensors that monitor daily and important activities.

Sensors can be set up to monitor the senior’s wake-up times, locations and movements within the house, access to appliances or medications, exit through outside doors and more. SenseAide also provides a “call me” button. All information gathered is sent over the Internet to a web-based portal.

Through the portal, caregivers and loved ones responsible for the senior’s well being can see alerts for any events they choose, including the times and durations or emergency events. These notifications can also be received as SMS text messages. Notifications can be sent to all or some members in a senior’s caregiving group.

Finally, SenseAide helps the network of caregivers and family members around each senior to establish a Care Community, with members getting access to information based on their need to know and ability to respond. Information gathered or seen by one member in the community can be forwarded to another member. And members can belong to several communities. Rao said the service is set up to be flexible, so the community and information can change as the needs of each senior change.

As an example of how SenseAide functions in the real world, Rao told the story of Ruth, a senior receiving hospice care at home during the end of her life. “Ruth’s daughter had broken her leg and was unable to fly in to see her, but Ruth had just a few days left.” Using SenseAide, the daughter and the hospice agency were able to remotely see Ruth through the video device, connect her with nursing staff to review needs for pain medication change and get her in touch with her pastor.

“There is one phrase I will always remember: ‘There will be claw marks on the wall if I am forced to leave my home of 45 years,'” Rao recalled. “Seniors want to stay home, and in many instances, it is their only affordable choice. We can go a long way in ensuring their well-being.”

SenseAid’s primary customer is the home care agency, which would use the service to provide effective care remotely and at an affordable price. Home-bound seniors using the service get better care response, lower costs and improved social connectedness. Also, the family members of each senior get improved peace of mind and a sense of control in situations that seem to always be in a state of flux.

Rao revealed that SenseAide has been endorsed by a nationwide home care franchisor and will start rolling out to three franchises beginning next month. Rao also said the startup has seen good initial sales at home care and hospice agencies and individual homes. With around 18,000 home care agencies serving around 8 million seniors, Rao puts the market at around $18 billion right now. SenseAide’s subscription-based revenue model is set up to capture a good portion of that market.

Moreover, SenseAide is also in the early phases of developing a clinical study with the Institute of Gerontology and the state’s Agency on Aging.

Rao is also in early discussions with Operation Able, a nonprofit project focused on senior employment. He hopes he can get seniors to help other seniors. “Since this is remote care and monitoring, travel and physical demands are low. I hope to see seniors create a revenue stream for themselves by remotely caring for their peers.”

Next steps for SenseAide include finding more marketing partners and improving the startup’s intellectual property portfolio. The company’s next major release will integrate SenseAide sensors with vital signs-monitoring devices.

SenseAide is one of 80 companies chosen by VentureBeat to launch at the DEMO Fall 2011 event taking place this week in Silicon Valley. After our selection, the companies pay a fee to present. Our coverage of them remains objective.

Image courtesy of massgovernor.