I just read an intriguing article about "Smart Homes," a new idea in eldercare created by British researchers. The researchers are developing home sensing systems to help people with dementia remain in their own homes by keeping them safe and providing helpful reminders. If you are caring for parents, this development in senior home care may be something to watch.
What are Smart Homes?
If the British researchers are successful, eldercare costs may be decreased by allowing more older adults with dementia to stay at home longer and live independently. Smart Homes would contain sensing systems capable of reminding a parent to turn off a water faucet or eat a meal. The system could also automatically switch lights and appliances on and off. The researchers ultimately want to create what they call a "virtual caregiver" that could even utilize the voices of friends and relatives to record reminders or comforting messages for the person with dementia.
Where are Smart Homes?
Smart Homes have been in place for over a year in two British eldercare homes, where they are still being tested. In the article I read, Smart Home developer Professor Roger Orpwood explained, "The driver really has been to arrive at a creative engineering solution that addresses real problems faced by real people with real needs." He continued, "The key is to focus on enabling people, not on taking decisions away from them."
I really liked that philosophy. People with dementia are all too often assumed to be incompetent in multiple areas of living when they may simply need some senior home care in order to continue living independently. Smart Homes seem to combine elements of dignity, practicality, and safety that could provide peace of mind to both those with dementia and those caring for parents.
The Future of Smart Homes
In fact, the systems are designed partly to reduce the burden of caregivers. Next, the researchers want to make sure that Smart Homes can be managed by senior home care providers. If eldercare companies can do this, Professor Orpwood thinks that Smart Homes could appear on the market within five years.
What are your thoughts about the possibility of Smart Homes? If you are caring for parents with dementia, what kinds of features would you want to see in a Smart Home? Post a comment to this blog, and be sure to sign up for our RSS feed to receive regular updates about new eldercare topics posted on EldercareABC.com.