In the third of our articles with Anthropos, the leading connected care provider, Age Space’s Helen Massingham and Ann, her mother-in-law, review their home monitoring system…. As Ann says at the end of the piece “I forgot I was being monitored”….
We're worried about Mum living alone, but....
…….we don’t want to all live together either and she certainly isn’t ready for a retirement or care home. It’s ok to be honest, in fact, honesty is the best policy when talking to elderly relatives about their future care needs.
As an employee for online elderly care platform Age Space, I was asked to review a new bit of home care technology designed specifically to help older people living alone and their families.
At Age Space we have many gadgets and gizmos passed over our desk and I have tested a fair few of them. My promise to you is that first and foremost I will be honest.
Anthropos Connected Care is a home monitoring system consisting of smart sensors that you place around the home. These sensors monitor movement and activity and link to an online platform to give you reports on your relative’s behaviour and send alerts if anything requires urgent attention.
You can buy the system via a third-party personal alarm company called Taking Care and they install the sensors for you. Plus, as part of the package, you get a personal alarm with a 24/7 emergency resolution line.
As I wasn’t a paying customer, we installed the system ourselves and it was incredibly easy using login details and following an interactive online set-up process. As each sensor is installed and switched on, you get a green light online to tell you it’s working. It probably took us about an hour to install motion sensors in the kitchen, hall, lounge, bathroom, bedroom, front and back door. Plus, activity sensors on the kettle, microwave and fridge.
The monitoring sensors are golf ball size, white and discreetly stick to the top of the doorframes with strong adhesive double sided tape. No drilling involved! The activity sensors are plugs that go between the appliance and the socket and record how many times the kettle and microwave are used. In the case of the fridge, a golf ball sized sensor is placed inside to monitor when the door is opened and closed.
A bit of family background
My mother-in-law Ann is 82 and has been living alone since June 2020. For the previous 60 years she lived with her husband Keith, who is now sadly living in a dementia care home. I say sadly, but actually he’s as happy as Larry, it’s the rest of us who miss the Keith we knew and loved.
Ann is quite independent and active and getting more so as her confidence in living alone increases. However, at 82 we do worry about her, especially since she suffered a stroke two years ago. Luckily for us, Keith was having a good day and knew to call us as soon as the stroke symptoms became apparent – if he had been having a bad day then it would have been a different story.
So, after a few ‘what if’ conversations, it was not a problem convincing Ann to wear a personal alarm.
If you’re currently having these discussions with an elderly relative, please share our story – it might make them realise that an alarm pendant or wrist tracker is not such a huge loss of independence.
As for me – I’m a mum, step-mum, wife, daughter, daughter-in-law, friend and full-time employee. My husband is the same with a different pronoun which ultimately means, we’re busy!
The precious commodity that we don’t have enough of is ‘time’ so when offered the opportunity to test the very latest in Home Monitoring Technology with the carrot dangled that it would not only give us peace of mind but also save time, we leapt at the chance.
I don't want to be spied on...
After a bit of research, my husband and I were sold – but how to convince Ann. A pendant alarm is one thing but placing sensors around her home to monitor her behaviour is quite a different proposition.
Here’s the thing – and I’m not being deceptive – but in reality, Ann was doing me a huge favour by helping review the product and this is the angle I used to get her to agree. I appreciate if you’re reading this, this argument won’t work for you. However, the principle is the same – it’s about convincing them that they are actually helping you out.
As a parent you never lose the need to help your children, whatever their age. Therefore, when embarking on the personal alarm/home monitoring/care conversation – stress how worried you are (true) and that these extra bits of technology can really be your eyes and ears, when you can’t be present.
If like us, your elderly parent doesn’t want you constantly dropping in and hanging around making them feel incompetent, this is a great way of giving them more independence as opposed to less.
In fact, after her initial scepticism, she enjoyed being a part of the review process. Keep reading as Ann gets the final word!
Home monitoring service
I’m not a techie person, and whilst I appreciate the ‘tech’ is interesting to some, the most important bit about this whole process for us is how it can change our lives for the better.
The sensors are easy to install and the online interface is clean and simple to follow. Even for someone not overly familiar with online systems, this has been made incredibly intuitive with a simple traffic light colour system. The system monitors:
- Hydration – based on how many times they boil the kettle and bathroom visits
- Nutrition – based on microwave and fridge activity
- Environment – tells you the daily temperature and temperature in the rooms with sensors
- Activity – monitors the time spent in bed and if you have the sensors installed, activity or more importantly inactivity in bed and chair.
All of this information can be seen on a graph for a quick overview.
Each section offers a daily summary including a suggestion if something is not quite right. Plus, you can get these sent to you as alerts via SMS or email. You also have a page of actionable insights, where you can read suggestions. Some of these are open to interpretation. For example, we know that Ann’s lounge is colder than it should be as she doesn’t use it very much and when she does, she turns on the fire.
You can choose which sensors you need and with time, you might find you need to progress to having more rooms and activities monitored. We didn’t have the bed and chair sensor, as this required outside installation. In retrospect, despite Ann being physically active and able, I feel the bedtime sensor (auto learning at night) is the one that would offer us the most valuable insight. I know she is up and down a lot at night, so this for me feels like an increased danger zone.
Finally, you can pause the system if someone comes to stay as this would obviously skew the data and if the person goes away for a long period. You can choose to receive a weekly activity graph via email and you can also email Anthropos directly from the online system.
Home Monitoring system - good for
Anthropos Connect Care is perfect for older people living alone that are still relatively independent. The system gives both the elderly resident and their family extra reassurance that they’re managing ok. It is also a great system for spotting potential health and care issues in advance and derailing potentially dangerous scenarios. For example; if an elderly relative is repeatedly boiling the kettle, while it could be that the kettle is faulty, it could also be that they are forgetting they’ve boiled it and give you an early indication of memory loss.
If they are not getting out of their chair for hours on end, it’s an indication that you need to try and increase their activity levels to avoid both physical and mental health issues.
Finally, and one that I will be looking into as a result of this experiment, is that if your elderly relative is up a lot in the night a) is there a medical reason that needs attention? and b) we need to make sure that access and lighting to the bathroom is good enough to avoid any potential falls and accidents.
Home monitoring system - could do better for...
Whilst this can be used alongside a day carer, if your relative needs more advanced daily care, this is not a replacement. It is also not a replacement for human contact.
I appreciate we have to start somewhere and it’s difficult to monitor everything. However, if someone doesn’t like hot drinks or prefers to eat non fridge items during the day, then this doesn’t work. For example; Ann might have eggs on toast for breakfast and soup for lunch. We know this anecdotally because we chat daily, so again this is no replacement for human contact.
I also feel it would work better as an app, both access and interaction would be slightly quicker and you can allow push notifications for alerts and daily summaries.
I’m sure that these developments are already in the pipeline, and it would also be useful to link Anthropos to a personal health tracker which is fall and GPS enabled. This way you can monitor health statistics alongside environmental data for a more holistic picture.
Overall conclusion - a definite yes from Age Space
Elderly care is a journey and therefore this system is good for certain stages of that journey. I truly believe that technology such as this can, and will, allow older people to remain living at home for longer.
The daily monitoring of Ann’s behaviour didn’t really reveal anything surprising ….. YET!
When thinking about home monitoring, there are a couple of factors at play, one of them being cost and the other timing – which invariably comes back to cost.
We don’t know what’s around the corner, but we do know that Ann will become less able with age. By introducing the technology when she is fit and able, I know that we timed the conversation right because she has been very open and receptive to the whole process.
If you buy the Anthropos Connected Care system through Personal Alarm company Taking Care, it costs £47.99 a month/£575.88 annually and remember, that includes installation and the monitored personal alarm. Everything you need to know can be found here.
It is worth looking at the expense of a system like this within the context of other care costs such as a carer or a care home. It certainly isn’t a substitute and when the time comes, a carer might need to be employed. But it might just delay the need for more costly care.
As for us, we already pay for a monitored personal alarm at approximately £30 a month, so for less than an extra £20 a month, we can have the home monitoring system too. I’m happy in the knowledge that it’s working away in the background, until it proves its real worth.
And the final word, I quite rightly give to my Mother-in-Law, Ann – “I was very happy to take part in this trial and to know that it would help to reduce the concern that my family has for me living alone. The monitoring devices are small and hardly seen so are not a reminder in any way and I actually forget I was being monitored.”
Anthropos 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.