Residential Care For The Elderly Is Moving Into The Digital Age

The data are sent to the nurses at the assisted-living middle where these residents live, a red dot appearing next to the real brands of residents whose normal routines have changed dramatically. This was how the staff was alerted recently about a patient who’s usually up and out of her apartment early but instead had been lying in bed for most of the day. It turns out she was developing pneumonia. Indra Sooklall, director of citizen care at Spring Hills Somerset, a 120-unit assisted living home in New Jersey that installing “smart sensors” 2 yrs ago in a wing for dementia patients.

Technology is changing life inside assisted living facilities and other residences for elderly people. Many of the recent technology updates inside long-term-care centers reflection the digital advancements of the right times, with Wii, YouTube, and Skype used to add spice to therapy routines and entertainment programs. Wii games are helping get patients in rehabilitation moving again after a personal injury or surgery, while heath experts believe computer chess, trivia, or other skill games can keep brains active and potentially defend against senility.

But the most closely watched technical revolution to hit the long-term-care industry is the growing use of movement sensors and so-called “patient-monitoring systems” to better track changes in a resident’s health insurance and mobility. Paul Langevin, chief executive of the ongoing healthcare Association of NJ, a trade group that represents the long-term-care industry.

IT Initiatives, a Manalapan, N.J., company that designs technology and communication systems, is finalizing agreements with seven long-term-care centers in New Jersey to install resident monitoring systems, said John Dalton, the company’s president. One of them is at Friendship Village, a pension community in Basking Ridge that is in the middle of a multi-year task to install the technology specific to the needs of the various facilities on its campus.

The nursing home and assisted living home at Friendship Village are being fitted with electronic-medical-records kiosks in hallways where staff will enter data about everything from blood pressure readings to when the individual was last bathed. The community’s 3rd party living units will have telephones with LCD screens that allow residents to call for concierge-type assistance as well as high-tech personal emergency systems that send indicators to the staff’s two-way-monitors.

The development is definately not widespread, however. While technology in long-term-care settings is much buzzed about nowadays, many of the functional systems set up remain in the pilot stage. Laurie Orlov, an industry author and analyst of the blog, Aging in Place Technology Watch. In New Jersey, recent slashes in Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements have managed to get harder for long-term-care companies to upgrade or set up new technologies unless they secure grants to help pay for it, Langevin said.

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Even the recent press by the federal government to fund the transition to electronic medical record keeping has generally targeted clinics and doctors’ offices. But the market for technology in assisted living facilities and assisted living centers had started to get significantly in the last year, said Bryce Porter, a sales supervisor with Intel-GE Care Innovations. His company has installed its Quiet Care sensor systems in a huge selection of communities nationwide, including Bella Terra, an assisted living residence in Ocean County. Over the long run, Langevin predicts, long-term-care centers will find a genuine way to pay for technology updates.

With a vision to the near future desires and needs of the boomer era, many centers have previously committed to technology to improve not just clinical treatment but also the grade of life inside their buildings. Christian HEALTHCARE Center in Wyckoff, N.J., secured a grant to produce an electronic medical records system five years ago. At the same time, the non-profit committed to some type of computer system called IN2L – It’s Never 2 Late – which residents use to play video games, browse the net or focus on projects.

Residents have become hooked on Chicktionary, a Scrabble-like video game. Betty Mowerson, a 94-year-old resident who experienced before owning some type of computer never. These computer-brain games could actually help ward off dementia symptoms by exercising memories, attention spans, orientation, and word-finding skills, said Michelle Zaks, a speech pathologist at Christian HEALTHCARE Center’s assisted living residence. In the rehabilitation wing, a Wii video game system has turned into a standard tool in treatments.