When the eyes of elderly patients are cameras

On a rainy night in Michigan, 88-year-old Dian Wurdock walked out the front door of her son’s home in Grand Rapids, barefoot and without a jacket. She didn’t even know her destination.

Wurdock was diagnosed with dementia a few years later, which turned out to be Alzheimer’s disease. Fortunately, her son woke up and found her before she walked too far into the street. As Alzheimer’s disease progressed, so did her wandering and the anxiety of her children.

“I’m losing it,” her daughter Deb Weathers-Jablonski said. “I need to protect her safety, especially at night.”

Weathers-Jablonski installed a monitoring system with nine motion sensors around the house-in her mother’s bedroom, hallway, kitchen, living room, dining room and bathroom, and three doors close to the outside. They connect to an app on her phone that sends activity alerts and provides a log of her mother’s movements.

“When I go to bed at night, I don’t have to guess what she is doing,” Weathers-Jablonski said. “I can actually sleep.”

New monitoring technology is helping home caregivers deal with the tireless task of finding elderly people with cognitive decline. Building an extensive monitoring system can be expensive-the Weathers-Jablonski system from People Power Co. costs $299 in hardware, and the application fee is $40 per month. There are dozens of companies selling such devices, including SentryTell and Caregiver Smart Solutions, which can be easily obtained by those who can pay at their own expense.

But this is not everyone’s choice. Although this technology is in line with President Joe Biden’s plan to spend billions of dollars to help elderly and disabled Americans live more independently at home, the cost of such systems is not always borne by private insurance companies. Less borne by the medical insurance or Medicaid plan.

Monitoring can also raise ethical issues regarding privacy and quality of care. Nonetheless, these systems still allow many elderly people to stay at home, which is much lower than the cost of institutional care.Living at home is What most people like, Especially considering the losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to nursing homes.

Technology can help fill the huge gap in home care for the elderly. The supply of paid nursing staff is in short supply and cannot meet the needs of the aging population, which is expected to more than double in the next few decades. Low salaries, meagre benefits and high burnout rates have exacerbated the shortage.

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For nearly one-fifth of American adults who take care of family or friends over the age of 50, these gadgets make hard work a little easier.

Passive surveillance systems are replacing “I fell and can’t get up” Medical alert button. Using artificial intelligence, the new device can automatically detect problems and make emergency calls without knowing it. They can also use motion sensors such as EllieGrid and WallFlower to monitor pill dispensers and kitchen appliances. Some systems include wearable watches for fall detection, such as QMedic, or GPS locations, such as SmartSole insoles. The others are recording cameras. People use surveillance systems such as Ring in their homes.

As researchers in England said A recent studyA participant who visited his father every weekend began to reduce the number of visits after his father started wearing a fall detector on his wrist. Another participant thought her father was very active around the house, as evidenced by activity sensor data. Later she realized that the app showed not her father’s movements, but his dog’s movements. The monitoring system recorded the dog’s movements in the living room and recorded them as activities.

Christa Barnett Nelson, executive director of Advanced Advocacy Services, emphasized that technology cannot replace face-to-face interaction. This is a non-profit organization that helps seniors and their families in the North Bay area outside of San Francisco. “You can’t tell if someone soiled their underwear with a camera. You can’t tell if they feel pain, or if they just need to interact,” she said.

In some cases, the people being monitored will change their habits due to technology. Clara Berridge, a professor of social work at the University of Washington, interviewed a woman who stopped the usual practice of falling asleep on a recliner because the technology would mistakenly remind her family that something was wrong. When it is not active, it is regarded as abnormal by the system. Another elderly person reported that he rushed into the bathroom because he was worried that if the time was too long, the alarm would sound.

This technology raises another concern for those who are being monitored. “Nursers are usually very concerned about safety. Older people are usually very concerned about safety, but they may also take privacy very seriously, or their sense of identity or dignity,” Beric said.

Charles Vergos is 92 years old and lives in Las Vegas. He is uncomfortable with the camera at home and is not interested in wearing gadgets. But he likes the idea that when he is alone, someone will know if something goes wrong. His niece who lives in Palo Alto, California suggested that Vergos install a home sensor system so she can monitor him from a distance.

“The first question I asked was, would it take pictures?” Wilgos recalled. Because the sensor has no video components, he treats them very well. “Actually, when you leave them at home for a while, you don’t even think about it,” Vergos said.

The sensor also made his conversation with his niece more convenient. She knows that he likes to sit on a chair in the study to make phone calls, so she will check his activities on her iPad to determine if it is a good time to call.

Those who record audio and video must comply with state privacy laws, which usually require the consent of the person being recorded. However, it is not clear whether consent is required to collect activity data collected by the sensors. This is a gray area of ??the law, similar to data collected through Internet browsing.

Then there is the question of how to pay for all of this. Medicaid is a federal state health plan for low-income people. It does cover some passive monitoring of home care, but it is not clear how many states choose to pay for such services.

Some Elderly people can’t enter either Karen Lincoln, founder of the University of Southern California’s African-American Seniors Advocacy Group, pointed out that strong Internet broadband makes many more complex technologies out of reach.

What the ambulance monitoring equipment brings to caregivers is probably the most convincing reason for their use. Drain Whitehead lives in Orange County, California. About a year after her husband Walter was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, she started taking medication to treat anxiety.

Like Weathers-Jablonski, Whitehead also sought technical help to find inner peace through a sensor installed on her toilet.

Her husband often flushed too much, causing the toilet to overflow. Before Whitehead installed the sensor in 2019, Walter caused $8,000 worth of water damage in their bathroom. With sensors, Whitehead will receive an alert on her mobile phone when the water level is too high.

“It really relieved my pressure,” she said.

Sofie Kodner is a writer on the Investigative Reporting Project at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. The IRP reported this story through funding from the SCAN Foundation.

Kaiser Health News is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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