Seniors who are aging in place will be helped through the use of technology.
Family caregivers can get some help keeping senior loved ones healthy and safe by using some technology devices.
Just what is coming, though — what should caregivers be anticipating in the growing tech market geared toward seniors?
What holds promise on the horizon (or some innovations that are new and available) for the benefit of aging in place seniors and caregivers?
There are many products out there now that are meeting needs of our senior loved ones, but some of the developments about which we are hearing seem to be science fiction. Think Jetsons or Star Trek – beam me up Scotty!
If they help our senior loved ones, though, does it matter?
X-rays Via a Smartphone App
A new developer hopes to bring this idea to fruition. Todd O’Brien, the founder of ScanDx, wants to help assess potential bone fractures on site at the point of injury without special equipment.
Using a sound based app, Fracture Dx could make use of the knowledge that a fractured bone transmits less sound. Similar to using a tuning fork, this is how he describes the technology behind the app.
“FractureDx is an early-stage device that consists of a smartphone attached to a high-sensitivity microphone and stethoscope for picking up the resulting sound. A smartphone app interprets the soundwaves and automatically returns a diagnosis of fracture or no fracture.”
The idea is to prevent unnecessary x-rays and to determine if there is a fracture present. It won’t tell the degree or extent of the fracture yet but could help to determine if more medical care is needed. It would serve as a screening method hopefully reducing unnecessary x-rays, medical costs and radiation exposure.
There will be obstacles, of course, including doctor adoption of this shortcut and medical malpractice concerns, regulation including FDA approval, knowledge of its operation and who would be using the app.
The developer feels it will be most useful for first responders, athletic trainers, and perhaps even homecare nurses, who could keep the app on their phone ready for use.
This and other ideas will open the door for using portable diagnostic devices to help consumers and reduce medical costs. This device could lead to other applications such as bone density assessment or joint hardware failure.
This same innovator created a method to diagnose diabetic peripheral neuropathy using a similar technique.
Pocket Diagnostic App
Researchers at the University of Cambridge have developed a smartphone app that can measure color-based or colorimetric tests used in home or clinically remote settings. It will then transit results to a health professional for further assessment and treatment.
Portable point of care diagnostics will help reduce health care costs and make health and safety a bit easier for our vulnerable aging in place seniors.
This app takes an accurate reading off a color strip for specific tests for people with diabetes, kidney disease, and urinary tract infections. It more accurately reads the color result on the strip to avoid false positives.
Once the test is performed, an image of the strip is photographed in the smartphone app. The result can be saved and sent to the healthcare provider for a diagnosis and fast treatment interventions.
Heart Failure Disease Management
Congestive heart failure affects millions of seniors and can lead to poor health and high medical costs.
A new idea from Endotronix has a hardware and software strategy to help manage heart failure.
It will use remote monitoring with devices already in the home, such as blood pressure monitors, pulse oximeter, weight scales, and heart rate monitors, collecting data and sharing it with the health care team. It will collect the readings being taken and more efficiently communicate with healthcare providers.
The software allows improved communication between consumers (seniors and caregivers) and the medical team. It will have protocols so that care recipients get follow-up timely to prevent crisis situations. It will help not only people with heart failure but organize the response from the medical team more seamlessly.
Wearable, Stretchable Electronic Devices for Health
Wearables is a large market collecting health data for improved lifestyle behavior for us all including seniors. Wearable bands track our steps, our sleep, our hydration and our stress not to mention other biometrics.
Now a new wave of wearables is poised to measure the heart, brain and muscles using a second skin applied to our bodies.
One such new skin type device is able to connect to a smartphone and monitor sun exposure in real time using a stretchable electronic that is half the width of a human hair and applied to the skin.
The skin-like device contains a near-field communication antenna and microchip to send signals to the app.
This is expected to be just the beginning for stretchable electronic devices, which could have significant impact for other health solutions.
Has your senior communicated virtually with a health professional yet? If not, they probably will have a chance to do so in the near future.
Calling the doctor using a video screen, such as their smartphone, tablet or computer, to get an evaluation before you head out to the emergency room is happening for many right now.
Texting doctors and connecting on Facebook is another way many older adults and caregivers are using technology to access healthcare.
Telemedicine is being adopted by many medical practices and healthcare systems in an effort to reduce costs to deliver care.
Smartphone apps are in use now to get a virtual face to face exam with a doctor for diagnosis and screening such as Doctor on Demand.
For seniors and caregivers it means better access without having to transport fragile seniors, getting care when distance is great and when chronic disease management will keep seniors out of hospitals.
Telemedicine technology has improved with fast broadband service, improved audio and video hardware, and the use of electronic stethoscope.
It can eliminate the distance between seniors and healthcare providers — and thus better care.
Future of Aging in Place
Seniors are living longer and are staying in their home longer, too.
How can seniors get the support that they will need to stay in their homes safely?
Caregivers alone won’t be able to meet all their senior loved one’s needs, especially when caregivers have their own families to nurture and also if they are long distance carers.
Experts agree that one necessary part of aging in place will be the need for internet connectivity to drive health and safety technology devices. Home monitoring, telemedicine, socialization, safety devices, home comfort and other tech innovations will need internet services to communicate with each other and the entire caregiving network.
It won’t be enough to just live at home for seniors.
They desire — and we want for them — a safe, healthy experience and to maintain an acceptable quality of life while they live at home.
Technology innovation may be part of the solution to their desires.