Community Care

A.I. In Elder Health Care

Jules Roebbelen
,
July 19, 2019
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Technology advances more every day. Ways to stay connected, ways to do things faster, easier, cheaper. You can order toilet paper right to your door just by asking Alexa (and probably for less money than at your local shopping centre). You can share your computer screen in real time with someone halfway around the world. Going in to the office is often optional. Technology improves our lives so we have more time to exercise, socialize, travel, play. It can also improve the lives of seniors by allowing them to more safely age in place at home.

Today's healthcare system is preparing for the world’s rapidly growing senior population. As the baby boomers age, we have increasing numbers of seniors needing access to care. Introducing specific technologies into the healthcare process can alleviate strains on administrative teams, doctors and nurse practitioners by avoiding unnecessary hospitalization or institutionalization. EMRs have been around for years, and we have finally found a way to stop faxing referrals to specialized service providers 😉

Yes, we always need more doctors, but we also need better solutions to keep seniors well and out of hospital, to prevent doctor visits in the first place. The growing field of gerontechnology is aimed at reducing the use of health care and community care resources as well as admissions (and re-admissions) to hospitals and long term care facilities. The main goals of gerontechnology are to increase autonomy, self-confidence and mobility through the maintenance of health and active lifestyles. While gerontechnology encompasses everything from anti-aging medical research to social engagement tools for seniors, a major part of gerontechnology is also the development of ambient assisted living technologies (AAL). Here are some innovative examples of how technology can be used to help keep seniors safe, active and healthy at home to age in place by reducing the risk of injury and isolation.

  1. Personal health monitoring systems can alert emergency or other care services of a sudden change in someone’s health, such as a drop in blood pressure, temperature or heart rate, or even track abrupt movements like a fall. These can be as simple as the classic LifeAlert, or as complicated as a custom bracelet like a FitBit or Apple Watch.
  2. Smart phone alerts can be set to remind seniors to take specific medications, eat a meal or have a glass of water. Prompts can even be set to suggest taking a walk, having a shower, or calling a family member. Virtual home companions are robots that learn the user’s habits and can customize daily reminders or suggestions, much like the smart phone alerts. Two great examples are Mabu and ElliQ.
  3. Motion sensors can be positioned in the home to alert when someone has not been active for an extended period of time. They can also alert services in the case of a senior with dementia leaving the house with Wander Prevention Devices.
  4. The number one cause of fires in a senior’s home is unattended cooking equipment. Home modifications can be made to turn off taps or the oven if they’ve been left on for an extended period of time. Alerts screens can be installed near the exits to remind you if one of these things has been left on when you open the door.
  5. Many people living with Alzheimers, dementia or mental health differences do not often notice a change in their environment, for example, if the air conditioner stops working on a hot day. Smart temperature controls can alert the senior if the room is getting too hot, cold or humid, as well as the obvious smoke, gas and CO detectors.

These are just a few examples. You can learn more about the ways AAL technologies are improving the lives of seniors here. By implementing some of these AAL device integrations into already existing at-home care services, aging in place can now be easier, safer and more fulfilling for both the seniors and the health care providers.


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