Aging-in-Place: Risk Management for Seniors
Most elders have a strong preference for living out their golden years
in familiar surroundings, rather than having to adjust to an unfamiliar assisted living facility. Special technologies are now available to monitor important medical and safety conditions for elderly, infirm, or special needs individuals who live at home alone or are unattended for periods of time. These electronic aids can be programed to alert the right people when help may be needed. When combined with basic home automation technologies such as lighting control, access control, and security cameras, they can do much to manage the general risks associated with aging-in-place.
Properly employed, these devices can reduce the occurrence of medical situations which can trigger an (often permanent) transfer from the home into some form of senior care facility. They include:
Dehydration –not drinking enough fluids.
Malnutrition – not eating enough of the right kinds of food.
Medication Non-compliance – skipping medications or taking too much.
Timely Help—for simple emergencies or situations that can put elders at risk physically.
Security – forgetting to lock doors, set alarms, etc.
Simple technologies include:
Medical bed pads—which monitor skin temperature, respiration, and quality of sleep.
Medication dispensers—pre-scheduled or remotely-operated, which track and help maintain daily medication regimens.
Sensors & event counters—placed in the refrigerator, which provide a useful indicator of food and fluid intake.
Passive devices—like motion detectors, timers, and counters, which alert caregivers or family members of unusual behavioral patterns or possible medical emergencies.
Door locks—automated or remotely monitored and actuated
Security cameras—outside the home and in, to reassure family and caretakers that all is well, and to help assess situations that might require an emergency response.
The benefits of supporting and maintaining elders at home are significant—both financially and psychologically. Used appropriately, electronic support devices can do much to reduce many of the everyday risks associated with living at home during the last decade(s) of life, thereby preventing or postponing the transition of seniors to higher levels of care. And because of the great costs associated with institutional care, the payback time for installing these safety nets can be as little as a few months. For more information, see Medical Monitoring; and Tailor the Tech to Your Lifestyle.