We live in the age of the connected home. We can turn on the kitchen lights, get a weather report, play music, or place a grocery delivery order with simple voice commands. Even our oven and dishwasher are now Wi-Fi enabled. While most people think of these technologies as an added convenience, for older adults they have the potential to offer so much more. Smart devices can directly connect seniors to caregivers and offer personalized services that fit their individual needs and preferences.
Consider the following scenario:
Mr. Johnson is an elderly gentleman with diabetes and COPD. He has been living alone since his wife died last year. His only daughter Emily lives an hour away. During their frequent phone calls, Emily notices that he seems to be getting a little more forgetful. She takes the day off work to take him to the doctor who confirms Mr. Johnson is beginning to show some early signs of Alzheimer’s. The doctor writes orders for home health nursing to periodically check in on Mr. Johnson. During the first home visit the nurse takes his vitals, tests blood glucose, and conducts spirometry and pulse oximetry to check pulmonary function and blood oxygenation. The nurse finds that Mr. Johnson is doing well. However, the home health team cannot monitor Mr. Johnson between visits. A week goes by and he has forgotten to take his medications. His oxygen stats have dropped resulting in dizziness and a fall that sends him to the hospital. Mr. Johnson’s daughter comes to the hospital. He tells her he wants to go home. While this fall didn’t result in serious injury, his daughter is concerned about her dad being able to live independently. Is it time to hire a caregiver? Move to assisted living? They don’t feel like they have any good options.
However, this scenario didn’t have to play out the way it did. There are good options available. Along with caregiver support, smart home technology can promote independence by filling the gaps. Consider how the following smart home devices could have helped Mr. Johnson and his daughter:
· A digital assistant such as Alexa or Google Home, can provide reminders for doctor appointments, home health visits, and prompt seniors when it’s time to take medication. This reminder can be set by the caregiver remotely. When a simple reminder is not enough, a smart pill dispenser can further improve medication compliance by only dispensing medication at the appropriate time and sending an alert to caregivers when medication is not accessed. Mr. Johnson’s daughter could have received a text alert that her dad did not take his medication and called him to provide a gentle reminder to take his medication.
· Medical smartwatches can passively detect and report important vitals to caregivers. If Mr. Johnson’s daughter could have been notified that his oxygen saturation had dropped or his glucose levels were off, she could have called the home health team and possibly prevented the fall.
· A smart doorbell like Nest Hello paired with the Nest Yale smart lock can help a family keep up with home health visits or when a paid caregiver comes and goes. Additionally, a smart lock can allow access remotely for services such as grocery and prescription delivery.
· Personal emergency response systems have come a long way from “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” In the past these systems were only reactionary, requiring the senior to push a button to call for help after a fall occurred. Modern systems detect a fall and automatically call for help. With the help of cellular technology these systems are no longer limited to inside the home but accompany the active senior outside the home.
· Today’s more advanced systems provide whole-home activity monitoring utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) to learn an individual’s activity patterns and provide alerts to caregivers that a change in behavior has occurred. This change in behavior may indicate an increased risk which can be dealt with prior to a major hospitalization incident. Mr. Johnson’s daughter can receive an alert if her dad doesn’t get out of bed at his typical time, hasn’t moved from his favorite chair in a while, or if he leaves the house to get the mail and has not yet returned.
While the connected home has become a mainstream convenience for many households, these technologies can enhance caregiver efforts to support older adults living independently. These technologies when adapted to the home of a senior can enable collaboration between seniors, families, and caregivers which ultimately improves care delivery and health outcomes.
If you would like to know more about smart home technology that provides convenience, promotes safety, and enhances independence consider calling LiveWell Mobility and Modifications today for a free in-home consultation. We understand that every family has unique needs, let us help customize a solution for you.