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Most seniors would like to remain independent, and continue to live in their own home as long as possible. It’s important that they can do so in a safe way. Technology can help ease the worries about not knowing if an aging family member has wandered off, hurt themselves, or forgotten to take their medication.
The elderly population in the U.S is expected to double between now and 2050 (and presumably also the healthcare costs), making it even more important to better facilitate remote patient monitoring. At the same time, investment in tech to meet the needs of the coming age bubble have been doubling down. Here are a few interesting tools that can assist the elderly to stay safe in their own home:
Improving medical alarms
Personal emergency response systems or medical alarms have been around for a while. The user is equipped with a button to push in case of emergency. A weakness in this system is the action required by the user, who in case of a severe emergency could be unconscious and not able to able to communicate. To solve this, Philips Lifeline has included an auto alert feature to its medical alarm, which includes fall detection with automatic access to help. The Great Call 5Star Urgent Response has realized that seniors leave the house too, and has added a GPS tracker to the system.
Lack of medication adherence is known to be an important factor to why elderly eventually move to nursing homes. Forgetting to take prescription can have a huge health impact in a population often challenged by chronic diseases. Medication monitoring can improve adherence and help seniors remain at home longer.
The Medminder pill dispenser reminds the user to take their medications with a series of visual or auditory alerts, and phone call reminders. A medical alarm is also built into the system. Another medication dispenser system, AdhereTech, sends voice or text messages to patients when it’s time to take their medication. Sensors track when the bottle is opened and how many pills are taken out at time. Thirdly, Philips Medication Dispensing System reminds seniors at programmed times to take medication that’s been loaded into a dispenser. With all three systems, alerts go out to caregivers when a dose is missed.
Cognitive impairment will make many older loved ones wander off and get lost. Shoes embedded with GPS trackers can help find a beloved grandmother. The SmartSole has an embedded GPS, providing real-time tracking. At specific time intervals, the device sends a signal to a central monitoring station, and shares the location information with the caregiver. The system sets up geographic boundaries, and when the senior leaves that zone, an alert is sent out via email or text messaging.
Homecare monitoring systems
By using sensors placed in different locations at home, daily activity movements can be safely monitored. If and when a senior opens the refrigerator, goes to the bathroom, or takes their medication, this can all be tracked and analyzed. If something out of the ordinary happens, the caregiver will be alerted. For example, if dad has spent an extended amount of time in the basement, this could be due to a project he’s working on – or it could be a fall or other kind of emergency. If the refrigerator hasn’t been opened for a long time, this could indicate poor eating habits.
smartThings connects sensors (including third party) with a wireless hub, and can loop in thermostats, door locks, and surveillance cameras. Many retails stores, such as Home Depot, Best Buy, and Staples offer their own connected home systems.
GrandCare calls their homecare monitoring system the “comprehensive care solution”, perhaps not a far-fetched description. Their system offers a wide range of features, including activity sensors, and a telehealth device that wirelessly records blood pressure, pulse, glucose, weight, and temperature readings. In the center of the system is a senior-friendly touchscreen providing individualized reminders, instructions, and medication prompts. GrandCare also has a social component with virtual video visits, chat, and shared calendar events.
When caring for loved ones, in-home monitoring or alarms will never fully replace family support and professional caregivers. However, connected home technology can extend the amount of time seniors are able to live independently, and stay safely in their own homes — and compliments seniors programs like the one Humana has implemented. It will ease the worries for family members, lower healthcare costs, and provide a higher quality of life for elderly.
That’s a combination that’s guaranteed to age well.
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