What connected care in the home looks like: sensors for older people
By Paul Berney
We are experiencing an increasing shift from care that is reactive, to care that is proactive and preventative. This evolution to focusing on maintaining wellbeing and supporting people as they age, not just intervening when a problem arises, has been taking place for many years, but the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this trend.
The combination of smart sensors and artificial intelligence is now being used in the home to monitor older people and identify meaningful changes in their daily routines. By alerting family members and care providers to these changes in daily routines, intelligent remote monitoring can support pre-emptive action to be taken on behalf of the older person.
In this article, we look at how smart sensors – not cameras – deliver the best approach for the future of care in the home, how these sensors work and what they look like.
You can’t act on what you don’t know
To support older people in their homes you need as complete a picture of their daily routine as possible. Even with family or carers visiting every day, it is still possible for older people to have unseen and unmet needs. Now we can use unobtrusive and discrete sensors to capture those needs without interrupting the lives of those being monitored.
Our Connected Care Platform uses sensors that feed into a powerful always-learning system (using machine learning and artificial intelligence) to analyse the daily routine of older people in their homes. By monitoring for any changes, carers and family can be reassured that previously unseen needs are being captured and can then be acted upon. Even small, early changes to the care plan of an older person can make a big difference to how long they might be able to remain independent in their own home. Conversely, intelligent remote monitoring can provide reassurance that everything is OK and nothing needs to change. That knowledge on its own can be a big relief to families members separated by distance or perhaps forced to be apart by the COVID pandemic.
Learn about how Home Instead, the UK’s leading home care provider, are using our technology within their Home Aware service, or how Taking Care have added it to their award winning personal alarms within their new Safe Home Alert service.
Privacy is still paramount
One of the main concerns with any monitoring technology is the idea that you are subject to surveillance in your own home. Part of staying in your own home means retaining a sense of your own privacy. We have found that older people especially, can find the idea of being monitored by technology to be very intrusive – few people want to feel like they are living in the Big Brother house.
As a result, we do not use cameras or microphones and we have paid particular attention to using sensors that make no noise and have no flashing lights. The devices should disappear from view in much the same way as a smoke detector does once fitted.
Typically we monitor movement, hydration and nutrition, temperature and safety in the home, with multiple motion sensors to pick up movement throughout the home and sensors on the front and back doors to log entry and exit to a person’s home. Smart plugs on the kettle and microwave and an additional sensor in the fridge help us to understand hydration and nutrition.
Each sensor is small and easily installed, with no electrical work or rewiring required. The motion sensors are placed above door frames using strong adhesive tape or small screws in order to see the transitions between rooms so the system knows which room an older person is in.
The sensors and smartplugs send information to a hub device which in terms sends it to our platform either using a home broadband router when available or to a mobile hotspot for homes otherwise lacking an internet connection.
Every device is monitored constantly by the platform, so critically we know if it is working and if it is capturing and sending the correct data. The instrumentation that supports this means that we know instantly if devices have stopped working for any reason, or even if their batteries are wearing out.
Importantly, if an older person no longer wishes to have the devices in their house, they can easily be removed and returned to Anthropos.
How is the data shared?
The data collected by the platform is held on highly secure servers and strict attention is paid to ensure that access is restricted to it and that the older person themselves actually owns it, following GDPR guidelines
The intelligence generated by the platform is shared in a number of different formats, such as through a dashboard, an app, email or SMS, and it takes two forms: alerts that prompt immediate responses, and actionable insights which suggest that longer-term, more subtle changes in behaviour are taking place.
The platform does not offer care solutions or make clinical decisions, but instead focuses on data that can be trusted to be accurate, dependable, and actionable supporting the care providers and family to make informed care decisions.
It is this approach to how the sensors work and the level of insight they are able to provide that led to Anthropos being chosen to power two of the UK’s leading home care solutions.