Perhaps an elderly relative has a fall alarm that helps keep them safer at home if they’re a bit unsteady these days. Maybe you’ve put sensors around the home that trigger an alarm should they detect that someone has not got of bed as usual, or detect a stop in movement around the kitchen which may indicate a fall.
Personal alarms and sensors not only give families peace of mind, but the benefits to the wearer/user are potentially life-saving. They play a major role in reducing the likelihood of hospitalisation following a fall for example.
This technology appears scary – intrusive, robotic and far, far aware from care. But, working in tandem with humans – those needing a bit of support and families or carers trying to support them – it is a gamechanger.
Predicting future care needs at home
Beyond the peace of mind care tech solutions such as alarms and sensors give, the question that families and professionals alike should be asking is “Will this technology enable better, more informed decisions about the care that may be needed in the future?”
We should be asking how the information these new technologies can gather will make a difference to families and care providers in the longer term: to predict and start to influence changes in daily routines, and to be able to forestall a decline in health for individuals over time.
The fridge door may hold the key
On its own, providing a notification of something like the fridge door being opened or the kettle being boiled is of important every day value. But there is so much more potential. All the information recorded by sensor systems needs to be placed in context. An alert that Mum is not out of bed one morning may mean Mum overslept,or it could mean she has hurt her back and cannot get out of bed. Understanding Mum’s previous daily routine helps place the information in context and provides greater meaning.
Remote monitoring systems such as Anthropos’ connected care platform look for meaningful changes in the daily routine of an individual. The technology can then decide if that change means the older person requires immediate help or if that change is something more subtle, taking place over time.
Our daily routines reveal distinct patterns or behaviour so spotting changes becomes an essential way to help better understand what is happening to individuals particularly when they are alone.
Says Anthropos COO Tom Oliver: “If you think about it, we are all creatures of habit, but all very different in those habits. We can build a picture of someone’s daily routine in about 30 days. After that the crucial thing is to compare Mum with Mum so that we can place every information into a context of Mums daily routine.
“Sometimes the changes in our lives are small and subtle and hard to spot over time, even for people living together or daily visitors: a little less time in bed here or an increase in bathroom visits there could easily be dismissed as unimportant, but if we see that change taking place in context, perhaps it’s an indicator of something else going wrong”.
CASE STUDY: Spotting the signs of Dementia
As part of the Taking Care Smart Home Alert system, Mary, aged 77 who lives alone, has smart plugs fitted which can monitor her use of appliances such as kettles, microwave and a sensor in her fridge.
Mary’s daily routine can be pretty consistent. The smart plug captures Mary’s usual kettle usage: she may boil the kettle once or twice in the morning, and then once or twice again for a cup of tea in the afternoon.
This is a pattern of behaviour that is fairly consistent for the best part of a year. But then, Mary starts to boil the kettle a lot more each time she uses it, perhaps 4 or 5 times in quick succession for example.
Though this could just be a change in routine, it could also be for example, an early sign of dementia. Mary may be forgetting she has boiled the kettle. Though the smart home monitoring technology can’t tell for sure either way, it will flag the change in pattern that will alert a family member or carer to find out more.
Patterns of behaviour to predict the future
If the system is being used by others like Mary who also start to exhibit changes in behaviour, then it becomes possible over time to see repeat patterns. These provide greater certainty that something is wrong – and enable help before the situation – and Mary’s health – declines, with all the related implications of this.
The critical task for any of the technology systems installed into older people’s homes is not just to collect data but to understand the individual so that the changes seen are placed in the context of that person’s life. By understanding both big and small changes to the daily routines of older people we can better target support for them.
Embracing the future with tech at home
Choosing a pendant alarm or a home monitoring system to help provide support and care for parents and relatives in their home will give you peace of mind, and give them every day help. It can do so much more too. We all need to learn to look out for the every day patterns that emerge, and to see them for what they really are – an indication of the future.
Anthropos (www.anthropos.io) is the leading connected care platform with a track record in delivering tech solutions to the care sector and other providers. The Anthropos system provides insights and evidence to support families and care providers to refine care plans and make better care decisions.