How can caregiving be more responsive—more human--using technology? Innovative senior living organizations and leaders are discovering how technology can improve the care experience for residents, families, and staff.
Connecting residents to the community and to their families has never been easier with the aid of interactive, content-rich programs delivered through touchscreen tablets. Residents easily access community messaging, weather reports, news feeds, video chat, photos, medication reminders, personal calendars, personal contacts and staff/resident directories. Other systems provide learning, stimulation in the form of puzzles, history quizzes, and games, music therapy, and video content oriented to the age and cognitive abilities of the person. Two pioneering companies in this field are GrandCare and It’s Never 2 Late.
For residents in memory care, there are specialized tablet-based programs for stimulating memory, cognition and improving their quality of life. The GeriJoy Companion uses pet avatars to engage residents with dementia, providing emotional support and companionship. GreyMatters is an interactive life storybook app that uses visual reminiscences paired with music and games. Communities are also experimenting with apps from virtual pottery making to gardening—a list of nine is here. For caregivers, Forbes recently profiled MemoryWell, which creates professionally authored stories about their resident’s life experiences, helping to create a bond between care staff and that person.
- Health and fitness
Physical fitness programs are a key checkpoint when future residents and their families choose senior living. A resident’s strength has a direct relationship to long-term quality of life and fall prevention. Both Xbox Kinect and Nintendo Wii are widely used to recreate activities from bowling and baseball to tai chi, with the added bonus of participants competing against others in communities across the country.
Another challenge for communities is to adapt fitness programs to individual capabilities, especially post-rehabilitation. One rising approach is the use of integrated fitness systems—strength training machines that are designed to be safe and effective for older adults. Older adults are able to personalize their workouts and fitness regimens on equipment like that from HUR. In more advanced communities like those of LifeWell Senior Living, the senior simply touches their all-in-one CarePredict wrist band to the reader on each machine to automatically set up their custom workout. Other communities use key card systems to personalize workouts, tracking user activity and progress so that caregivers can better assess fitness levels. Wearables, such as Fitbit, can be used to track daily step counts and set daily fitness challenges. Fitness videos are also available on tablet-based socialization programs.
- Safety, wellness, and predictive care
Technology’s most significant contribution to communities has been in the development of systems that improve the wellness and safety of residents. The first generation of personal emergency response alarms, in-room activity sensors, and RFID location finders introduced communities to enhanced care and safety through resident monitoring. The second generation supplemented direct care with telehealth monitoring of health conditions, telemedicine visits between remote doctors and resident patients, improved analytics of sensor-based data to proactively determine changes in health, and mobile two-way emergency response alarms.
The next generation of technology being used by communities for resident wellness blend attractive, versatile, sensor-powered wearables with personalized, predictive care and safety reporting. An example is CarePredict’s Tempo wrist-worn wearable which continuously detects activities of daily living (ADLs), indoor location, and ambient room information. This data is continuously analyzed using machine learning. When a change in a resident’s daily patterns occurs, it may mean one or more emerging health problems leading to increased fall risk or possible hospitalization. The care team can then take action earlier with what may be a developing serious condition. More immediately, the Tempo detects resident elopement, entering restricted areas, or the location of a resident in distress who presses the assistance button.
Technology is making better, more responsive care and improved quality of life for residents—and more time for staff in direct care—possible now.