By Spencer Blohm
A proliferation of new smart technology devices aimed at improving health care for the elderly while reducing the strain and anxiety for their caregivers is rapidly materializing. These gadgets’ capabilities include monitoring elderly patients’ vital signs and behavior, medicine management, and alerting caregivers to unusual situations as well as directly increasing patient security and safety.
These smart health monitoring systems offer inexpensive convenience and relief to caregivers while enhancing the independence and dignity of those for whom they care. They also allow patients to self-monitor their health and keep them more closely connected to their loved ones and the outside world. It is a win-win situation all the way around.
Health and Activity Sensors
A variety of sensors are being employed for monitoring patient activities, such as adherence to medicine regimens, or tracking their movements and habits in and out of the home. For example, AdhereTech, Lively and BeClose smart pill sensors assist in medicine management. GrandCare provides remote monitoring of an elderly patient’s blood pressure, glucose level and even weight. Additional sensors can trigger security alerts for open doors, running faucets or stoves left on.
SmartThings products can connect these sensors plus a home’s smart thermostats, smart outlets, security systems, locks or cameras to a single wireless hub that connects to the Internet. Caregivers can monitor signals remotely from a smartphone or web portal and decide what action, if any, needs to be taken.
Apple, Samsung, Microsoft and Google are or will soon be releasing apps and wearable devices that can predict the health of the person wearing them based on data accumulated during a learning period. Some of the other systems mentioned already include a patient smartwatch that can receive alerts, e.g. for missed medication, monitor activity or send requests for emergency help automatically or by a wearer’s direct action.
The CarePredict Tempo wearable wristband learns a patient’s normal activity patterns and stores them in a “rhythm journal.” If abnormal patterns or changes in gait should indicate a potential health issue that needs follow-up, alerts are sent to caregivers via voice/text messages, email or smartphone apps.
Lively’s monitoring system provides an example of how such products can further enhance the mental and social well-being of patients and caregivers. Their system allows caregivers to share notes and photos with their senior charges, which Lively collects and mails out to patients once a month. This provides stay-at-home patients with another way to feel connected to their family and friends.
One of the best indicators that the smart technology to monitor and improve the wellbeing of elderly loved ones is going mainstream is the fact that major outlets such as Home Depot, Lowe’s, Staples, Best Buy and others are offering starter kits for these systems on store shelves. These gadgets are becoming more accessible, convenient and inexpensive to acquire every year.
For stressed-out boomers who have obligations to their own work and family, these sensors, devices and systems are particularly reassuring and time-saving. For elderly patients, these gadgets are providing security, help with managing their own care and above all, a feeling of increased independence and control.