Smart House Monitors Senior Safety

Smart House Monitors Senior Safety

PORTLAND, Ore. (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) — When elderly people start to have memory problems, they may have a tough time remembering to take their medications. Some scientists are using wireless technology to help solve the problem, in hopes that these patients can remain independent.

Most mornings Audrey Mitchell remembers to take her medication, But sometimes at night she forgets. Now she’s not the only one keeping track, thanks to a new wireless technology that allows scientists more than 20 miles away to see when Mitchell opens her pill box.

"We do have some people who actually are very adherent. They take it on time the same day every day, no problems. We also have people who think they take it on time every day, no problems, but in fact, they miss very frequently," says Tamara Hayes, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland.

Smart House Monitors Senior SafetyMitchell is one of 50 people in Oregon with motion sensors in her apartment that allow scientists to track changes in her activity.

Neurologist Jeffrey A. Kaye, M.D., also of Oregon Health & Science University, tells Ivanhoe, "If you have a system at home where you’re actually literally able to capture what’s happening, 24/7, literally, you really have a much greater opportunity of checking or finding when troubles begin way earlier."

The monitoring devices can act as early warning signals when people are developing dementia or Alzheimer’s. This system alerts caregivers if a patient falls while getting out of bed.

"This is not some kind of world’s fair, future home that we’ll never see. At least what we’re doing is we’re trying to devise ways of bringing this to people within the next few years," Dr. Kaye says.

Smart House Monitors Senior SafetyOf course there’s a trade off. The person being monitored gives up some privacy, but Mitchell doesn’t mind. "I don’t find it intrusive, not at all," she says. If her mind starts to fade, she says she wants someone to know about it.

The monitoring devices themselves are pretty inexpensive, between $10 and $100. The computer equipment costs about $1,000, but the biggest expense is hiring someone to monitor and interpret the data.

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