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AI Advancements for our Aging Population

If you haven't noticed, AI seems to be taking over the world. It's not a terrible thing, especially when it comes to helping senior citizens age in place. It seems that there are more advancements coming out daily. From smart sensors to monitor your vitals, to virtual companions, there are more ways than ever that AI can help our seniors stay independent, healthier and happier.



ElliQ


ElliQ is a virtual companion that costs about $250 plus $50-$60/month subscription fee. This little robot can have a conversation, prompt a user to exercise (with a video exercise class), prompt a user to take medications, offer puzzles, games and even live virtual bingo. It can also help the user keep in touch with family and friends without having to use their phone. It can also keep track of blood sugar levels and other health vitals. This robot can anticipate mood changes and prompt the user to chat about what's bothering them. As it gets to know the user, the conversations will go deeper. For an individual living alone, this is a game changer. Just the interaction alone can help an individual thrive in their home. Loneliness is a leading cause of depression in the elderly which can lead to so many health issues. This robot and others like it may be the wave of the future to help people stay in their homes longer without companion care. If a senior is able to have a reminder for medications and someone to talk to, they may not have to move to a senior living community or have full time care. The activities and engagement can help a senior feel less alone and isolated.


Motion sensor video cameras


Many families who have chosen to place their parent or aging loved one in assisted living, memory care or skilled care have opted to use a motion sensor camera to help them monitor the care of their loved one. This is an inexpensive way to keep tabs on what's going on when you're not able to be with your loved one. While this can seem invasive to the senior, the families can have the peace of mind that they know what's going on "behind closed doors" with regard to the care of their loved one. Many communities will have a clause in the contract that will ask that if you place a camera, you must disclose it and the community will post a sign outside the resident's door that video monitoring is taking place. Most buildings will not offer video surveillance inside the apartments and you will have to install the cameras on your own dime.



In many of the buildings I have worked in, the use of surveillance cameras in the hallways or at the entrance and exit doors has helped the building prevent theft of resident's belongings and other possible misdeeds of the care staff, especially the overnight shift. People do tend to behave better if they know that they are being watched. Even in the cases where abuse is reported, sometimes the use of cameras can prove the innocence of the accused.


Motion sensor video cameras in an individual's home can also provide a sense of peace for the loved ones who might be trying to keep an eye on a loved one who lives alone. The video surveillance can alert a family member if the senior has not entered the room for a while or if there might be a concern about falls or other accidents.


Fall detection


It's important to know that most assisted living, memory care and even skilled care facilities are not able to restrain residents, physically or medically. In Pennsylvania, bed rails on a hospital bed are considered restraints and are not permitted in personal care or memory care. Some family members have complained that without a bed rail, their loved one will fall out of the bed and they may have to explore other methods of fall prevention, such as scoop mattresses or a mat next to the bed to soften a fall. In my experience, the bed rail can cause more damage than it will prevent.


Now, with new technological advancements, many memory care and even some assisted living communities are installing fall detection or motion sensors in their apartments. This will alert a care team member if a fall is detected behind a closed door, or if the resident moves into the bathroom it can alert the care team. As I've mentioned before, even in memory care, the ratio is not 1:1 for care and there will be times when the resident is unsupervised. At least if motion or a fall is detected, the care staff can respond quickly and we're seeing less instances of residents sitting on the floor for hours before help arrives.


Portable Fall Detection and Medical Alert Systems


Life Alert has been on the market for many years but the technology has obviously progressed. With remote fall detection monitoring and the ability for the senior to call for help at the press of a button, seniors can feel safer staying alone in their own homes without the burden of asking a family member or the cost of hiring companion care. There are several out on the market and some are wrist wearable and rechargeable. They will generally run $40-$60 a month.


GPS Tracking Devices



Some of the alert or fall detection systems also have GPS capabilities, which can help find a missing senior if they get lost. While this obviously isn't a fix for personal assistance with short term memory loss, if there are concerns about the where-abouts of an aging loved one, it's worth it to possibly look into air tags or other GPS tracking devices which can be worn or even placed in a likely item to be worn out such as shoes or a jacket. Theora Care has a simple looking watch that doubles as a GPS tracker and two way voice activation (button free) for $369.95 and $29.00 a month. This allows communication through the process of tracking and it also has a fall detection sensor and the ability to lock the clasp so the senior is unable to take the watch off without help. Tranquil has a more expensive option that has a battery life of over seven days. It has many of the same features as the Theora Care but the price point is $895.00 and $39.95 per month.


Additional Technology to help prevent wandering


Many memory care buildings will offer a wander guard system, where the resident is required to wear an ankle or wrist monitor which will sound an alarm if they go through a door. While this method is fairly common in memory care there is now technology that can help you bring this system to the senior's home. The Alterta Patch and Wandering Alarm Receiver will sound a portable alarm for the care-giver if the senior goes out of range. For only $169.00, it's a good deal if you are concerned that your loved one will leave while the caregiver is sleeping or occupied with something else. You can also install a system directly on the door. SMPL has a system that starts at $39.00 for the main system. You can add on as many accessories as necessary.


There are also basic code systems starting at $39.00 that will sound an alarm if you do not enter the correct code. Most folks with memory loss will fail to enter the code correctly and will alert the caregiver when they are seeking exit. These systems are recommended above just locking the door from the inside (which I have seen done in private homes). Locking the door from the inside without a way for the senior to get out can be dangerous for the senior and the caregiver.


AI Health Monitoring



There are now technologies becoming available for monitoring urine at home, which can help a senior keep track of important biomarkers. This device is placed in the toilet and brings immediate data to an app where the user can see their results on an ongoing basis. There are also smart phone applications being developed where a senior can keep track of their vital signs, blood sugar and other health and wellness markers in real time. It seems that every day something new is coming out. Stay tuned for updates on new technology. I will try to keep up-to-date with the newest technologies to help seniors stay independent for as long as possible.

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