The Internet of Things: 9 Potential Systems to Help Elderly Care
The elderly population continues to grow because of improvements in public health, nutrition and medicine. The elderly population currently around 12-13% of the world’s population. United Nations projections indicate that will have increased to 16% by 2030, and will jump to 22% by 2050.
By 2025, the world’s population will be 8 billion. 15% of these (1.2 billion) will be elderly. That is equivalent to the size of India! Another consideration is the projected decline in the working age population (25-59) between 2030 and 2050. This basically means there will be fewer people to support the elderly, both financially and otherwise.
Looking at current budgets, elderly care accounts for a higher share of expenditure compared to other age groups.
Two-fifths of the NHS budget is spent on the over-65s. The Treasury analysis data shows that an 85-year-old man costs the NHS an average of seven times more than a man in his late 30s. Health spending per person steeply increases after the age of 50, with people aged 85 and over costing the NHS an average of £7,000 a year. Across all age groups, spending on health services averages £2,069.
Let’s take a look at the different digital devices and, specifically, the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), which have tremendous potential to help reduce medical costs, whilst providing effective care.
IoMT devices, such as connected wearables by Vitls, monitor those with non-communicable, age-related illnesses, such as hypertension, diabetes, and cardiac conditions. Medical devices like these can help nurses and off-campus physicians continuously monitor seniors’ vital signs without disturbing patients, even when hospitalised..
Medication Adherence Tools
One of the key roles of carers is to ensure that their elderly patients remember to take their medication. Automated tools connected to the IoT can offer reminders, which can be critical to ensuring a person’s continued health.
Virtual Home Assistants
Using a virtual home assistant would give elderly people the ability to check conditions regularly, diagnose new ones and check the overall health of the person. The test could be carried out in their own homes and tests results shared with their care providers. The implication of this is treatment could be quicker diagnosis, which means treatment is less expensive for the NHS and less invasive for the patient.
Personal Emergency Response Systems
Again, Internet of Medical Things could be used for protecting against the impact of a fall, and for triggering alerts to emergency contacts in the event of an incident. ActiveProtective’s smart belt, for example, detects falls and deploys airbags to prevent fall-related injuries. It also uses Bluetooth technology to trigger an alert. Technologies such as these can help save avoidable fall-related healthcare costs, which can also sometimes be fatal to the elderly.
Disability Assistance Tools & Smart Implants
Various smart products, such as an iPad set up for such daily tasks as brushing teeth or taking medication can also be used to control appliances, in true IoT style. Connected ovens, for example, will monitor temperature and duration, before switching off automatically once a certain amount of time has passed.
A great device is the Opn smart hearing aids by Oticon. With features such as direct Bluetooth connectivity to smartphone for calls or for streaming music and the ability to control volume and switch programs on television with smartphone app support, it is a “smart” solution for seniors that’s sure to make you the envy of your friends at the day centre!
Pacemakers that communicate data to smartphone apps for sharing with physicians, such as Medtronic MyCareLink, will be critical for accurate and efficient data collection and analysis on patient conditions. The app enables the elderly to share data with hospitals, ensuring medical intervention is sought immediately when required.
Smart Elderly Homes
Care staff can monitor elderly patients with the use of wrist-worn wearables that track their location, as well as activities performed (such as bathing, walking, sleeping, etc.). The Tempo wearable by CarePredict also allows seniors to request assistance with the touch of one button and will soon also provide two-way audio communication with care staff.
However, the true power of the technology lies in machine learning and predictive analytics to derive insights from seniors’ daily routines, as well as any deviations. Insights could include emerging physical or mental health conditions, which can help alert care providers to the need for immediate medical intervention.
Family Caregiver Remote Monitoring Tools
If you are looking after an elderly person, Evermind and Sonamba help family members monitor their relative remotely, without contacting them directly. For example, the 3rings smart plug notifies family members each time the connected device is turned on–a coffee machine, for example–allowing the family member to know that it was turned on at the regular time, indicating normalcy in routine. Any deviation in routine will be detected, and family members can contact seniors to ensure that seniors are, indeed, all right.
Some of the Internet of Medical Things are amazing and have great benefits in terms of cost to both the elderly person, their families, NHS and ultimately still trying to give that person their free to live a normal life in their golden years. However, there is still some resistance to overcome first. Will elderly, often tech-phobic older people feel comfortable being monitored in their homes? And is the security of connected home devices sufficient enough to ensure the safety of older people? I guess the answer is to take a gradual approach on both fronts.