Faster diagnosis, easier ways of monitoring elderly people who struggle with mobility, faster communication when issues arise, all of these are already happening across the industry.
What might the year 2030 look like for the home nursing sector?
Home care providers witnessed their toughest year yet in 2020 and still in 2021, as a result of the pandemic. Facing significant challenges around access to PPE, testing and staffing.
The pandemic has highlighted how safe and effective home care can provide an alternative for families who wish to have their loved ones cared for at home.
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Remote monitoring and other digital technologies are encouraging the feasibility and popularity of care at home. For example, to support independent living within the home as an alternative to residential care, clients can be provided with an alarming fall mat which will alert clinicians of the incident for a quick response. Smart devices that monitor vital signs could be employed to alert care staff of when an individual requires hospital admission and ultimately serve as a way to prevent conditions from deteriorating to the point that they require admission in the first place.
This means that, in the future, when we are admitted to the hospital, our care needs may be much higher and care in the home will become more prevalent. Additionally, particularly following the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s likely that people will prefer to receive care within their own home rather than a hospital or clinic, to reduce the risk of catching the virus.
Many studies are revealing that the world is currently seeing a growth in the percentage of an ageing population, with a notable increase in Japan, China and Europe. According to the UN:
“Population ageing is poised to become one of the most significant social transformations of the twenty-first century, with implications for nearly all sectors of society, including labour and financial markets, the demand for goods and services, such as housing, transportation and social protection, as well as family structures and intergenerational ties.”
As we adjust to a world in which there are a greater number of elderly people than ever before, we will have to consider the healthcare issues that could come with that. Diseases and illnesses that affect elderly people will require quick diagnosis and there may be more healthcare staff needed to provide treatment.
This is why healthcare providers are beginning to use AI-based automatisation to perform some of the tasks involved in caring for patients. AI can now be found at almost every step of the care-pathway, from intelligent tracking of biometric information to early diagnosis of disease. AI can assist both patients and their families to understand possible treatments and it’s also being used by clinicians to treat conditions more efficiently.
Future of homecare
Throughout the pandemic, due to concerns over the safety of patients and residents, many care homes closed the doors to external visitors and for those being cared for at home reduced visiting. To help them stay in contact with friends and family, providers and carers made use of social media and smart devices for them to keep in touch.
Technology across the healthcare industry is already available. Some to only a small number of people, others more widespread, but all with the same aim of lightening the load on existing healthcare professionals.
Monitoring health at home
Changes in inactivity and the development of unusual behaviours can be more meaningful in elderly patients. Companies invested in remotely monitoring patients have begun to develop products that can use biometrics to inform them of these changes quickly and efficiently to help diagnose issues. Biotricity is just one company dedicated to delivering biometric remote monitoring solutions. It’s using AI to improve its remote patient monitoring platform. CarePredict is using AI to continuously detect changes in activity and behaviour patterns to aid early detection of health issues.
For the older generation that lives alone or in assisted living, these AI developments are important. Wireless Sensor Network (WSN) use battery-powered wireless sensors (instead of wearable devices) to measure environmental factors like temperature, humidity, and light intensity. They can even pick up on daily activities like moving, sleeping, and bathroom trips, allowing for around-the-clock monitoring. Problems can be picked up faster and with far more accuracy.
Wearable tech is one of the easiest ways to monitor movement, but some companies are taking a further step for older users and their loved ones. The new Apple Watch app includes an app that can help keep elderly family members safe. The “Alert” app works as a panic button, allowing users who need assistance to contact a caregiver for help with the touch of a button. Fitbit, the creators of easy to use fitness trackers have utilised built-in AI-powered functionality to check inconsistencies in a person’s biometric data such as sleep tracking and heart rate.
While neither Apple nor Fitbit has a product dedicated to elderly users, the CarePredict Tempo was developed solely with them in mind. Worn as a wristband, it monitors motion, sleeps, location, personal care, and daily activities. After a week of wear, CarePredict will start noticing if there are changes in the user’s normal routine (spending more time in bed, using the bathroom more, or walking less). Loved ones are notified through email, text, or the companion app so that they can reach out if the change in routine needs to be addressed. You can watch a video of how this particular device works and hear how Founder Satish Movva developed the idea, here.
As we get older, we can see a rise in the number of medications we take. But some elderly people may struggle to remember to take them and the consequences can be more serious as we age. AI has stepped in to help solve this problem too.
MedMinder pill dispensers use lights and sound to remind people to take their medications. The different signals are designed to escalate if a person forgets. First, the compartment will flash, then beep, the user will receive a phone reminder. If the medication(s) have still not been taken, then all caregivers will be notified via phone, email and/or text message.
Alzheimer’s Society sells the Super 8 Daily Medication Reminder which also uses a sound and optical alert for timely medication.
AI is already an everyday part of how we communicate with our loved ones: Facetime and Skype can allow us to stay in touch with older relatives or friends and are relatively simple to use. This contact is all-important for companionship, something that some elderly people struggle with as they age. “According to Age UK, more than 2 million people in England over the age of 75 live alone, and more than a million older people say they go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member,” says one NHS article.
But there is also a rise in virtual home assistants. Catalia Health’s Mabu is a conversational robot that can not only provide tailored conversations to each person but can obtain hard-to-get data about treatment.
Intuition Robotics’ ElliQ and Reiken’s Robobear are similar developments. Ellie has daily routine reminders, cognitive stimulation games and can answer questions. Whereas ElliQ is aimed at keeping older adults active and engaged by connecting them to their families and the outside world, Robobear is a Japanese designed robot with a rather cute face that can help lift elderly people.
Ethics and concerns
All of the AI technology we already have in our homes: smartphones, Google Home, Alexa and wearable devices could all see further developments that can help the elderly.
Developments for Parkinson’s patients have recently included ‘smart cups’ to enable them to drink safely without their tremors interfering. Dehydration is a serious issue for the elderly, and this cup reminds you to keep water levels up. More products like this could emerge to support the more physical aspects of care.
While new technology is exciting and promising, a balance between a person’s privacy versus tracking their safety and social engagement must be maintained. AI robots can become very engaging, but could inadvertently actively encourage more social isolation in elderly people. Instead of creating the kind of emotional dependency that social media sometimes does, they need to complement human relationships and help the elderly to live fulfilling lives.
Regardless of how technology influences our lives in the future, ensuring the elderly feel part of the community will continue to be important for ensuring their wellbeing.
Contact Cavendish Homecare
If you have questions about caring for an elderly parent and would like to speak to us in person, please don’t hesitate to get in touch using our contact information.
Are you looking for home care for yourself or a loved one? Don’t hesitate to get in touch with Cavendish Homecare using our contact us page.