Medical Monitoring: Electronic Home Health Care
Smart home devices can monitor important medical and safety conditions for elderly, infirm, or special needs individuals who live alone or must be left unattended for periods of time—and bring help when it is needed. Using these technologies and integrating them into a home automation system can help avoid situations which can lead to medical emergencies, and trigger an appropriate alert if it becomes necessary. If such emergencies do occur, they can result in acute care hospitalization, and can even trigger a transfer from Aging-in-Place status into long-term care.
- Dehydration – not drinking enough fluids.
- Malnutrition – not eating enough of the right kinds of food.
- Non-compliance – not taking medications as prescribed.
- Accidents – injuries caused by falls and other incidents.
- Delayed help – for otherwise simple or benign situations.
Simple technologies available for medical and safety monitoring include:
- Smart bed pads – monitor temperature, respiration, and quality of sleep.
- Medication dispensers — pre-scheduled or remotely-operated, track and help maintain daily medication regimens.
- Sensors or event counters – placed in the refrigerator can provide a useful indicator of food and fluid intake.
- Motion detectors, timers, event counters – These passive devices alert caregivers or family members of potential medical emergencies by assessing deviations from daily living patterns.
- Security cameras, automated lighting – plus remotely monitored and controlled doors & windows, access control sensors, and intrusion control systems, all provide a general layer of safety and security for elderly or infirm family members.
When integrated into a smart home system, these monitoring technologies can relay detailed information on the status of a loved one to family members or others who are concerned about their well-being, so they can respond in a timely and appropriate fashion.
Active vs Passive Devices. Senior care experts know that active devices like call pendants and special cell phones are surprisingly ineffective in summoning help. Why? Because an elderly person in distress typically doesn’t have the device at hand when an accident occurs, or is too embarrassed to use it, is too confused to act, or even unconscious. Passive devices like bed sensors, motion detectors, and security cameras are much more effective in summoning emergency help, especially when used in combination, and implemented by a specialist skilled in aging-in-place applications of smart home technologies.
An Aging Population. This changing demographic is placing unprecedented stress on Medicare, Medicaid, and family financial resources. The benefits of supporting and maintaining loved ones at home can be enormous—both emotionally and financially. Using appropriate electronic devices to support their desire to live independently, in their own home, for as long as possible, can do much to reduce some of the medical risks associated with aging, and prevent or delay the transition of seniors from home into care facilities. And because of the great costs associated with senior care, the payback time for installing these safety nets can be as little as a few months.