Assisted living facilities are entrusted with a lot: they care for our parents and other loved ones at a time when they are developing special needs, but still want to remain independent.
Recently, technology has been evolving that helps them fulfill that charge and care for seniors more effectively, with less intrusion into their lives. Such technologies have been harnessing the power of wireless Internet to help seniors live safely and independently within such facilities.
1. Motion-sensing systems: Sophisticated motion sensors installed around the home can help detect the well-being of seniors and communicate possible risks to caregivers and families.
A number of different companies— including BeClose and GrandCare— offer sensor packages that can be installed within a room and even beneath furniture to detect even very slight movements. In the event that no movement is detected for a certain length of time, staff at the care facility will be alerted to check on the resident; family members can also be included in these notifications.
Alternatively, some seniors are instructed by caregivers not to get out of bed— such systems can also alert staff that residents are moving too much when they shouldn't.
2. PERS devices: Personal Emergency Response Systems have been around for a while now, usually taking the form of a button that a senior wears around the neck that can alert others in the event of a fall. However, more sophisticated PERS systems are being developed which can help alert staff even if the senior is unable to press the button.
Sophisticated sensors equipped on a belt or another piece of clothing can detect regular walking patterns and determine if a fall has occurred; they can also determine the severity of the fall and alert different emergency personnel if necessary. Such systems are also usually equipped with GPS now so that they can determine the exact location of a senior in need of help.
3. Medication reminders and dispensers: Seniors often have a broad variety of important medications they need to take, but it can be difficult to remember which medication to take when.
A variety of systems— ranging from the simple to the complex— have emerged to tackle this problem. At their simplest, pill bottles can be equipped with alarms that sound at particular times of the day; at their most sophisticated, a special pill dispensary can connect to a service with instructions from doctors determining which medications will be dispensed when.
4. Stove monitors: Some assisted care facilities offer kitchens that allow residents to continue preparing their own food; however, one of the most common concerns for seniors is that they may accidentally leave the stove on and thus start a fire.
Motion sensors can be equipped onto stoves that measure activity in the kitchen; they will then shut off the stove if nobody has moved for a set amount of time.
5. Smartphones: While the cramped screens of smartphones can be a challenge for seniors to operate, accessibility software that allows people to interact with their phones in different ways, such as by issuing voice commands. This is especially important because many different technologies can now interface with smartphones to help track medical history, measure activity, or just help seniors simply and easily stay in touch with their loved ones.
All high-tech gadgets aside, many seniors still report they feel more comfortable in a home with a landline, especially in times of power outage or natural disaster. Plenty of carriers like CenturyLink and AT&T still offer Internet bundles that include a home phone plan for those on a budget.
A big thank you to our friend Rose who put this post together for us!
Rose Haywood is an Internet tech blogger and small business marketing/tech consultant. She hails proudly from Asheville, NC but resides for the time being right outside of Atlanta, GA. Feel free to reach out to her directly via twitter.