Monitoring Technologies for the Elderly

QuietCare is a home health alarm system provided by ADT Security Services.  Its wireless sensors track the movements of elders in their homes without video cameras.  The software allegedly is able to determine if the person got out of bed in the morning, ate, and taken their medicine. Changes in the resident’s activities are analyzed, and caregivers can be alerted if there are problems.  Operators at the 24-hour call center are trained in emergency situations.  Installation is $199, and the monitoring begins at $79.95 a month.

Medical Alert is a elderly monitoring system that provides help “at the push of a button”.  The system allows you to communicate with “a professional monitoring team member” who can dispatch EMS.  They also inform the EMS of existing medical conditions, and say this information is “kept strictly private.”  The company says that the self-installation takes 5 minutes.  It includes a base unit that is connected to the power and phone line, and an emergency button that can be used on the wrist or as a clip-on.  There is a $29.95 per month monitoring fee.

Six out of 10 people with Alzheimer’s disease will wander and become lost.  The Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return program connects those who have become lost with their caregivers.  It provides identification products (necklaces, bracelets, wallet cards, and clothing labels) with the toll free 800 number to a national information and photo database.  Anyone who finds an Alzheimer’s patient can call this phone number, and the caregiver will be notified.  There is a $40 registration fee.

“Granny Cams” in Nursing Homes

According to the National Institute of Health, there are 1.6 million Americans in nursing homes.  Recent horror stories about nursing home neglect and abuse has prompted a broad coalition of advocates who are calling for a federal law mandating the installation of a “granny cam” in nursing homes.  These advocates believe that it will prevent abuse of the elderly by their caregivers, but many nursing homes are saying it is an invasion of the elderly residents’ privacy.

“The federal government estimates that violations in <25% of homes substantially harm residents” (NIH).  Advocates of a federal law that allows cameras to be installed say that it would only be done with the permission of the resident, and that caregivers would be made aware of the camera.  The cameras cost $200 to $500, and would be paid for by the families of residents.

“With nursing home patients expected to increase by 350% to nearly 6 million by 2040, nursing home care needs to be improve, and maybe the ‘granny cam’ is the way to do it” (NIH).

Future Developments

Researchers at the University of Houston’s College of Technology are designing “an affordable in-home health-monitoring system that will notify caregivers, via smartphones or PDAs, if their loved ones need attention.” (UH).

The system monitors vital signs (blood pressure, temperature, pulse, and respirations) and location of the person by a sensor the size of a quarter.  There would be a few sensors in various rooms that would communicate with the sensor the person is wearing, as well as a central hub.  This would be connected to the Internet and send alerts to the caregiver’s smartphone or PDA.

The system uses off-the shelf technology, which makes it affordable.  Researchers say that $1000 could wire an entire house.  It is also designed to be easy to use.