IoT Sensors and Data Collection Becoming “Eyes and Ears” for Home Caregivers

i-medicalOver the years you spend in your home, you develop a certain comfort with your surroundings, from your spice rack to your knick-knacks—even knowing exactly where to reach for the light switch in your dark bedroom. So, it’s no surprise that nearly 90 percent of adults would prefer to age at home.

With the advancement of IoT tech for caregivers, that may become increasingly possible for older adults. Home caregiving is the fastest growing sector in aging technology, with over 100 million new ventures being funded, according to Aging2.0. Jason Johnson, chair of the Internet of Things Consortium, also confirms that the demand is high for improved technology for caregivers: “We have received significant interest from elder care providers who are seeking to keep the elderly in their homes rather than moving them to assisted-living centers.”

One challenge of caring for an aging relative has traditionally been that you just can’t be there around-the-clock—what if something happens, and your loved one needs you late at night or while you’re out running errands? But now, IoT (Internet of Things) sensors and healthcare data monitoring services make it possible for older adults to have access to the kind of thorough, 24/7 monitoring and care that was previously only accessible in assisted living. These new sensor and data-monitoring technologies lighten the load on caregivers and make it possible to let technology handle some aspects of caregiving that used to require professional help or in-home hospice workers.

IoT Sensors Keep an Eye on Your Loved One

One concern for caregivers who have a relative aging in place is that they won’t be there at the “one moment” their loved one needs them (like if they fall and can’t reach a telephone to call for help). Traditionally, a homecare nurse or relative also takes on the role of keeping an eye out and making sure that their loved one stays safe around the house, but new IoT Sensor technology can alleviate that burden on caregivers by serving as your ‘eyes and ears’ when you’re not able to be physically present. IoT sensors are sensors embedded into technology that can be programmed to track things like physical activity, motion, sound, vitals, or other environmental situations. Those sensors relay their data to another device (through the “Internet of Things”), to provide alerts or to make the data available for a third party monitoring service. That’s why they’re able to work as a digital “extension” of your eyes and ears, staying vigilant even when you can’t be present.

One type of sensor tech, fall monitoring systems, has become a popular assist for caregivers. One popular choice is the GoSafe fall detector by Royal Phillips. This medical alert device connects your loved one by GPS to 24/7 emergency responders, alerting them if it senses that the user falls, so you can rest easy knowing that someone will always be on the line to take action. Another option is the Lively Monitoring System—a stylish choice with multicolored bands that looks almost like an Apple watch. This system has a more comprehensive approach to monitoring, functioning as a panic button and activity monitor, as well as offering features like medication reminders and even step-counting to keep an eye on their daily physical activity. Like the GoSafe, the Lively System keeps your loved one connected to around-the-clock emergency response teams, so help is always on hand.

IoT sensors are even capable of assisting with situations that aren’t life-threatening—like answering the doorbell and telephone, and monitoring the user’s daily sleeping, eating, and physical activity. For example, OtoSense is a sensor that translates household sounds, like doorbells and buzzers, into physical sensations. This can be an incredible resource for an older adult with hearing loss, and helps your loved one handle the daily tasks that they might otherwise have found unmanageable without assistance—like receiving visitors, answering phone calls, and keeping tabs on the mail. It’s a very basic tool, but for some, it could mean being able to keep living at home rather than move to assisted living.

Some promising technologies include:

  • Independa– a comprehensive home monitoring system that collects health care data from the user, but also has a range of additional (and really cool) features, like allowing your loved ones to link and do things like stream the kid’s soccer game live to their TV from your device.
  • Healthsense– this company offers remote monitoring, acting as a ‘virtual neighbor’, monitoring for unusual trends in the user’s home and daily activity.
  • Medical Guardian– offers a range of in-home alert systems to keep the user connected to medical professionals. Some models also include GPS tracking options.
  • CarePredict – this attractively designed bracelet tracks the user’s activity and health data, and provides 24/7 monitoring.
  • Onkol– this monitoring system is also attractively designed, bearing closer resemblance to a stylish toaster than a piece of medical equipment. The Onkol system sends simultaneous alerts to family members, with the option of connecting to a 24/7 call center as well. The system has an open design that can be tweaked to function according to individual needs and devices.
  • Mybitat– a sensor system designed for a smartphone or tablet.
  • QuietCare– a connected system of motion sensors that monitors the user’s physical activity.
  • Evermind- an innovative (and uninvasive) system “checks in” with the user by monitoring their electricity usage. If they skip their normal routine such as making coffee and toast, the system registers the lack of activity.
  • Grand Care– a home sensor system also outfitted with telemedicine capabilities.
  • Safe in Home– this system uses stick-on sensors placed discreetly around the house, and provides text alerts to caregivers in the event of unusual activity.

Big Data Collection Tracks Health & Lifestyle Patterns

Gadgets that track the user’s activity really start to bridge the gap between older adults aging at home and their support structure of caregivers and healthcare providers, by taking the data that’s collected by the sensors and sending it outside the home to another device, to be analyzed by a data monitoring service. One such monitoring service is the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, a group that provides data monitoring to identify the user’s health trends and lifestyle patterns, and identify potential problems before they become serious. The data collected from the device is consolidated with other clinical and personal records to offer a comprehensive look at the user’s health. The Good Samaritan Society and other services like it then monitor everything from an online dashboard, keeping an eye on medication compliance, activity levels, sleep patterns, and falls—much like a real nurse would. Another company, BAM Labs, offers an interesting take on data collection, compiling patient data such as sleeping patterns and heart rate through a sensor mat placed under the user’s mattress. The sensors then transmit that data to an app that can be monitored by your healthcare provider.

Services like this can offer you the peace of mind that comes with having a home healthcare professional, while still giving your loved one the privacy and autonomy of living at home independently. It can also be a lower cost option than assisted living or full-time homecare, and the device is constantly vigilant. While a nurse needs to tend to other patients and juggle an array of tasks, IoT and data monitors maintain a singular and unwavering focus. Of course, anytime you opt for technology that’s going to be collecting healthcare data, it’s important to make sure that the information is being stored in a way that is HIPAA compliant. Consult with your healthcare provider, and they can guide you the process and offer advice about keeping your healthcare information secure while using IoT tech.

Remote Monitoring A Win-Win for Older Adults & Caregivers

IoT Sensors and data monitoring have the potential to completely shift our paradigm when it comes to home health care for older adults aging in place. Aging in place doesn’t have to mean choosing between aging “alone” and having constant in-home assistance, when you can have trained medical professionals monitoring the user’s medication compliance, activity levels, and health stats around the clock. It’s a win-win: older adults get to keep living at home, and caregivers can rest easy knowing that their loved one is being looked after 24/7. It’s not a replacement for the love and care you provide, but a supplement. With so many people adopting IoT technology, you can expect to see this market continue to grow and expand in the future—to the advantage of our older generation and their caregivers.

IOA can help you integrate technology into your caregiving routine and find IoT and data monitoring solutions to give your loved one the best possible care, and give you peace of mind. Contact us to learn more about our services.

 

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Institute on Aging

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