How the Internet of Things Can Help Senior Care

March 24, 2021 - 7 minutes read

While many of us haven’t had any problems staying at home during the pandemic, the elderly population has been suffering from loneliness, social exclusion, and lowered amounts of in-person medical care. Between these massive changes and the societal changes that have occurred over the past few decades (like a reduced inter-generational living, a decrease in community cohesion, and an increased ability to travel), the senior population has an increased risk of experiencing more critical health conditions and complications. The isolation brought about by the pandemic, in addition to living in high-risk communities that were hit hardest by the virus, has introduced more frailty to our elderly.

For senior citizens who were able to quarantine alone or live alone throughout the pandemic, technology has taken over many aspects of senior care so that nurses and family can safely ensure their patient and loved one is staying healthy and well. Internet of Things (IoT) applications like fall detection and alert devices, behavioral monitoring sensors, and malnutrition and dehydration trackers have worked tirelessly to support caregivers and elders alike during the pandemic. The hope is that these devices will identify signs of a larger issue so that it can be stopped before becoming serious enough to require hospitalization.

Fall Detection Devices

In elderly populations, falls are a major concern. Falls become more common with age and are the second leading cause of unintentional or accidental deaths worldwide. Thus, it is important to control as much as we can for falls both at home and in senior care facilities.

IoT technology can help caregivers prevent, predict, and detect falls by helping them record falls, pinpoint risk factors in the environment and the individual, and learn preventative and corrective measures. Conventionally, fall-detection technologies have used devices that the elderly person carries or wears. When the patient falls, they have to press the button on the device. This solution is great if your loved one is living across the country in Los Angeles while you’re in Atlanta.

But this method doesn’t account for patients that didn’t fall but don’t feel well enough to get up or for patients who haven’t been feeling normal recently. IoT can detect changes in the patient’s wellbeing by monitoring for discomfort and wellness. IoT sensors can help caregivers track their patients’ progress for days or weeks at a time and compare metrics to see if their patient’s health is declining, which is a risk factor for falling. This can support caregivers to act earlier and provide more care to make up for the senior’s deteriorating wellbeing.

Staying Home Longer

Research shows there may be a link between moving out of the home and into a senior care facility and dying earlier. For many elderly patients, it’s important for them to stay somewhere familiar and accessible to their families. IoT can help families remotely keep an eye on their senior family member by sending daily information about the patient’s health and wellbeing without any action necessary from the senior. When used with tele-assistance services, IoT technology really shines for seniors.

Companies like Vitalbase and SeniorAdom are working on remote assistance technology using IoT systems. Their tools include geolocation pendants, motion detection sensors, and wrist band devices. This hardware is supposed to automatically detect changes in behavior, motion, physical strength, and cognition.

By anticipating risks, sending early notifications to family and caregivers, and acting quickly in an emergency, these companies are making it possible to protect our seniors without expending more money, time, and effort. For example, SeniorAdom uses a self-learning algorithm and a smart box connected wirelessly to sensors in the senior’s home. With these devices and software, the company can detect abnormal situations or critical problems and send a warning to relatives and caregivers. SeniorAdom also uses motion sensors and door sensors to create a general daily schedule of the senior so that abnormalities are more obvious when they occur.

A Look at the Sensor Technology

These IoT-enabled sensors work on an 0G network which is used to send small amounts of data over a larger distance. They don’t pick up any personal or private information while they detect differences from the baseline conditions and movements. 0G devices also utilize low amounts of energy, making the overall cost a lot lower for the family.

For devices that run on other networks like cellular devices, it’s possible to utilize 0G as a backup network to ensure a stable connection for around-the-clock supervision and emergency communication. Vitalbases’s Vibby OAK is an automatic fall detection device worn on the senior’s neck or wrist. It connects to a cellular device (like a smartphone) but uses a 0G network when the cellular connection is unstable or unreachable. At healthcare and senior living facilities, devices operating on the 0G network can communicate with existing nursing call systems to keep medical staff updated in the event of an emergency.

IoT app development

More Autonomous Living

Many seniors want to continue an independent, autonomous, and healthy lifestyle. By outfitting their home and body with several devices and sensors in an IoT system, it’s possible for relatives and caregivers to remain vigilant, proactive, and connected without having to ask their seniors to leave home for good.

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