In this article, Palle Stevn, chief operating officer at MariCare, explains how through the use of professional care technologies such as its eLea Activity Sensing system, elderly people are able to live at home longer while still receiving immediate attention in the event of an emergency.
As much as residential care homes provide excellent standards of care and the facilities to ensure their occupants are comfortable, in the eyes of each individual, there is no place like home.
Leaving a place where they have spent years, even decades in, can be tough. But there comes a time when it becomes irresponsible and impractical for the elderly to stay there. When the state of their health means they have become too vulnerable, logical reason dictates that, despite the emotional attachment to their home, they are better protected in a dedicated residential care facility.
For care providers and municipalities, implementing these technologies means it is entirely feasible for elderly people to remain in their homes for a few years longer than they would normally
However, through the development of professional care technologies, there are now options available to defy that logic, and even allow for rehabilitation at home rather than in a dedicated healthcare establishment.
MariCare is a Finnish manufacturer of smart floor and Activity Sensing technologies: systems that use sensors to monitor the safety of vulnerable residents by tracking their movements and alerting the relevant carers to any emergencies that might require their assistance, such as a fall. For care providers and municipalities, implementing these technologies means it is entirely feasible for elderly people to remain in their homes for a few years longer than they would normally.
One of these systems that MariCare has developed is called the eLea, which uses wireless sensors positioned throughout the building to acknowledge when somebody enters and leaves a room, and then whether they might have fallen down.
When we conceptualised the eLea system, we did so with the ambition to make any living space for the elderly safer and more secure, without the requirement for carers or caring relatives to be on-hand 24 hours a day, and avoiding major renovation to the property in which it is being installed.
With eLea, we have designed a smart way of allowing technology to keep a watchful eye on elderly without intruding on their day-to-day lives.
The system works by using two detection fields that spread across the whole room – one positioned around chest height, and one below waist height. When the person enters the room, eLea is activated because they are in line with both detection fields. Should they fall down, they would deactivate the upper detection field, indicating to the system that a possible fall might have occurred. eLea will then send an alarm to an appropriate pre-selected phone or smart device so that somebody can check that everything is ok – whether that be a specialist care worker or a relative.
That alarm works through wireless ‘EnOcean’ technology, whereby the fall detector communicates with a remote gateway within the property, which communicates the information to the eLea cloud server, and from there transmits to the receiving smartphone.
Because it is not necessarily efficient to have somebody immediately visit the house should the alarm activate, the detection field functionality is an important design feature as it is accurate in establishing what might and might not be an emergency. For example because eLea requires both the upper and lower detection fields to be triggered in order to activate, it means that smaller creatures such as pet dogs can enter the room without raising any alarm.
Whether used as a means to keep the elderly in their homes longer, or even in private residential care homes, it is innovative professional care technologies that can help residents feel more secure in the environments in which they live And, far from being just an automatically-activated detection system, MariCare has added an alternative functionality that allows residents to hit a manual alarm system that communicates through the same way.
It can, therefore, connect to nurse call switches located throughout the house, or alternatively on a bracelet worn by the user. As part of this, there is a two-way communication feature. This way, the resident can sound the alarm and a carer can check in with the resident through a direct communication and determine whether something is wrong.
The sophistication of the system stretches beyond simply detecting when a resident might require immediate assistance – it can be used to track behavioural patterns that might indicate an underlying health issue. All the data that the system received is stored and can be accessed by a care operator, meaning they can track a resident’s movements and see how often they enter and exit and room. For example, should a resident be getting up to use the bathroom frequently during the night, it might alert medical staff to an illness that they otherwise might have missed – incidents that our customers have already reported back to us.
In terms of installation, the actual wireless detectors are simple to fit into the room, requiring only simple tools and with no wires required due to their battery power – which lasts for approximately 12 months. This means that the system can effectively be up and running almost immediately while ensuring that the resident of the building is not disturbed.
A further concern that residents might have with such a system is whether it is intrusive in the context of how their home looks. However, each wireless sensor’s sleek Scandinavian design means they are barely noticeable within the room. Aesthetic appearance was very important to us during the development of eLea. The whole point of the system is to work like an invisible assisting nurse, so its appearance should be almost unnoticeable.
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Whether used as a means to keep the elderly in their homes longer, or even in private residential care homes which encourage their independence, it is innovative professional care technologies such as the eLea detection system that can help residents – and their relatives – feel more secure in the environments in which they live.