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At-home technology protects elderly

Published on January 13th, 2010

Miami Herald had a great article about how new technology is helping elderly people.  New devices monitor how well seniors are managing activities of daily living, aid with some tasks and help avoid any move to a nursing home.  Scientists, doctors, engineers and philosophers  gathered last month at a TEDMED (Technology, Entertainment, Design Medicine) conference to unveil solutions to some health care problems.

One of the devices that has been improved over the last few years is a pendant that can call 911 if the wearer falls.  Now the device can be programmed to answer the phone, reminders to take  medicine or alert to a fire, among other things.   It’s one of several new products designed to help seniors stay in their homes.  At-home technology now can monitor senior citizens’ movements, vital statistics, and sleep and bathroom patterns.  Many older people like having technology provide this extra layer of security because it doesn’t require them to give up privacy.

The monitoring systems, which cost $150 to $200 a month, are more often prescribed to seniors for a limited time after a hospitalization or health issue. Some also are being used in assisted-living facilities where operators like the additional protections they offer.

Technology will allow seniors to avoid “unnecessary early institutionalization” because it will relieve the anxiety of loved ones. The ability to closely monitor a person’s lifestyle also can help family members know when the older person is unable to remain home, said Katie Boyer, director of marketing for Home for Life Solutions, in Lee Summit.

Besides monitoring falls and daily activities, her company sells equipment that will turn off a stove if the user forgets. A built-in motion detector turns the appliance off if the user leaves the room and does not return in a specific time frame. As for managing medicine, systems exist that will dispense it at appropriate times and remind patients to take it. If the patient fails to take the medicine, the pills can move into a locked chamber to avoid an overdose.

GE has two products aimed at seniors: Health Guide allows users to check their blood pressure, sugar levels or heart rate daily. The information is sent to a medical provider who tracks it. If problems arise, the patient can have a teleconference with a nurse or schedule an appointment with their doctor.

The company also offers QuietCare, which uses sensors that learn daily activities and behaviors, and then watches for changes. The sensors will alert help if a person falls, goes to the bathroom at night and doesn’t return to bed, or fails to get out of bed in the morning. Sensors also can be placed near the medicine cabinet or refrigerator, so monitors can track whether the person is taking their medicine and eating.

John Cobb, CEO of Senior Lifestyle, started to install QuietCare in some of his company’s 70 senior living facilities this summer because he thought it would make residents safer. With QuietCare, his staff can keep track of residents’ whereabouts at night, he said.

 

Joe Pioletti
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