Aging in Place: The WellAware Monitoring System

Posted by Hometalk | May 30, 2010

For many of us "aging in place" is becoming more than a catch-phrase. If you are elderly or disabled, but are capable of living independently, technology is here to bring greater potential quality of life. Leslie Dwight, CIO of Masonic Health Systems in Charlton, MA is a strong advocate for a relatively new system that essentially creates a "smart home."

Dwight said that MHS was in the process of beta testing in an independent living community in MA. "This is real. It's today. You can get this for yourself of a family member now," said Dwight.

How the system works to help you age in place
Sensors are placed in specific areas around the home, for example under a mattress pad to monitor sleep patterns. The sleep monitor measures breathing. The sensors can be placed in a variety of locations in your home, such as the refrigerator, bathroom, or bedside table. The system is wireless and feeds back to monitor whatever daily activities seem appropriate. MHS uses a system created by WellAWARE, Dwight said, "because of the way they communicate their information." Dwight said that most monitoring systems have been created to feedback to healthcare professionals, not individuals and their families. "This system has an intuitive interface," she said. The sensors can be connected to a phone system. You can determine who receives the information - a health-care provider, family members, or you.

What is the cost of creating a "smart home?"
Users pay based on the size of their home for an average cost of $100 a month for the monitoring service. You do not need to purchase the hardware. You only pay for as long as you use the service.

How can a monitoring system be helpful to aging in place?
Dwight gave the example of a woman who had a sleep monitor. When the equipment picked up that she had been very restless, her health-care provider asked her how she had been sleeping. The woman insisted she was fine. However with further probing she eventually revealed that she "could sleep better if the tumblers from the circus would go away." Her provider knew she had started a new medication which was clearly generating a psychotic reaction. The woman had her medications changed immediately and had no further trouble.

Dwight said that elderly people who don't get enough sleep are far more susceptible to falls. "This is especially true for night-time bathroom trips," she said.

"This wellness monitoring system is a tool for self-management," said Dwight. "Whether it monitors sleeping, eating, bathroom usage - it signals you. Then you get to decide what you want to do with the information." Dwight added that the system allows the user to have as much privacy as they want. "We all have patterns. This type of system can prevent a crisis," said Dwight.

The WellAWARE website states that the monitoring system provides "meaningful physiological data," and helps provide reassurance to families.

We live in a day and age where we can reasonably expect to live a long life. Tools such as personal health monitoring systems are only the beginning of greater independent living as we age.

Posted by: Cris Carl

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