Wireless Sensors Aim to Help Seniors Live Independently

The sensor system will learn seniors' daily routines and alert caregivers of changes in activity that could mean a resident is ill or injured.

An assisted living facility in Minnesota has installed wireless sensors in seniors apartments with hopes to detect falls or illness early.

The sensor system will learn seniors daily routines and alert caregivers of changes in activity that could mean a resident is ill or injured.

The sensors only detect motion and temperature; they have no audio or video capabilities.

About the size of a bar of soap, the sensors are attached to walls throughout a seniors living quarters and transmit information about a persons movements.

Pattern-recognition software identifies routines, such as when a person wakes up in the morning or opens doors to the refrigerator, medicine cabinet or bathroom.

If deviations from established routines indicate a medical emergency, such as a fall, caregivers are alerted.

For example, if an individual is in the bathroom for over an hour or starts making many more trips to the bathroom than usual, a caregiver might be alerted.

The system also notifies caregivers when a dwellings temperature is extremely hot or cold.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read more about how bathroom scales could help save lives.

St. Therese Homes of New Hope, a nonprofit senior living community, announced recently that it had installed the QuietCare System, made by Living Independently Group, in all of its apartments.

"With QuietCare we have identified a technology that helps us further maintain the independence of our residents. QuietCare is that special extra night light that remains on 24/7," said Barbara Rode, CEO of St. Therese Homes, in a statement.

/zimages/4/28571.gifRead more here about digital health care at home.

QuietCare uses so-called behaviometric software and machine-learning algorithms to create a statistical model of an individuals typical behavior.

Gradual alterations and slight changes do not sound an alarm, but drastic changes do.

St. Therese Homes and Living Independently Group say that the system preserves seniors privacy and dignity because seniors do not have to wear alerts or live under the personal supervision of health care personnel.

The Living Independently Group is one of several telehealth companies that monitor at-risk individuals.

/zimages/4/28571.gifTo read more about insurance and telehealth, click here.

Intel has been developing a suite of technologies, and other companies provide blood-pressure cuffs, scales and electronic pill boxes that send alerts to caregivers.

So far, relatively few seniors have complained that these technologies invade their privacy. Cost is a much bigger issue.

Health practitioners have said that such technologies could keep seniors out of hospitals and nursing homes, but that both insurers and private individuals have been reluctant to pay for them.

Living Independently Group did not disclose financial terms of its contract with St. Therese, but rates for monitoring private dwellings are about $90 per month, according to the companys Web site.

/zimages/4/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis of technologys impact on health care.