Home automation technology at first glance appears to be targeted towards young people with disposable income and the need to have all things electronic controlled with a simple voice command. However, with any labour saving devices, their applications might be handy bits of frivolous tech for the young and able bodied, but they quickly become an invaluable part of life for those with mobility and cognitive impairments.
The appeal of the mass market means that the price of technology falls very rapidly, people become accustomed to the items and their usefulness is proven. Once this has happened the applications for people who can get much more out of them are revealed. (A good example of this is SMS. Originally only conceived as a means of testing signal delivery in the mobile telecoms industry, it was going to be scrapped when full coverage had been established. However, it became popular among phone users and is now universal and a vital service for the deaf community who need to stay in touch with family and friends.)
So, technology finds users in unusual places. The fitbit allows people with an active lifestyle to measure their calorie consumption, their footfall and the distances they cover. However, this little bit of wearable tech is also incredibly useful for people with ongoing conditions who neither want to, nor can afford to go into a nursing home. If the tech is set up to measure heart rate, blood pressure or temperature it can send an alert when vital signs start to deteriorate without the need for a nurse or carer to be in attendance 24/7.
Constant Monitoring, When You’re Asleep And Awake
Smart mattresses seem like a rather peculiar idea. After all, once we’re asleep, our immediate wants and needs are much diminished. However, they measure and maintain temperature, wake you up, and record your activities in sleep, including breathing, and body movement. Again, this data is useful if you find it hard getting a decent night’s sleep, yet it can again be used to sound an alert if you begin to crash in your sleep.
Just these two inventions make what is known as ‘telemedicine’ more than just a possibility, they make it a reality for many older people. The assurance of knowing that if and when anything goes wrong an alarm will be sounded is the reassurance people need to enable them to continue living in their own homes instead of moving into a retirement home or residential care.
We all want to live independently for as long as possible, and smart technology is giving us a few more years of being able to live in our own homes. When Karel Capek coined the term ‘robot’ back in 1921 it meant ‘helper’ or ‘servant’ and, nearly a century later, that’s exactly what this robotic technology has become. The Internet of Things, all those connected devices which we are buying and introducing into our homes all communicate with one another, performing each of their assigned tasks perfectly and effortlessly. So it turns out we don’t need one robotic individual to service all our needs, instead, we have a plethora of little robots each doing their own thing just for us.
Fewer Barriers To Entry As Smart Tech Becomes Cheaper And More Useful
The fact that connected devices are coming onto the market as same-price alternatives to ‘dumb’ alternatives means that the most obvious barrier to entry, cost, is all but eliminated. When you look at the cost of placing an elderly relative into residential care or hiring a home help, the simple tasks that smart devices can perform such as opening doors, turning lights on and off, reminding the homeowner to take their pills, keeping track of their heart-rate, temperature and movement mean that many of the basic functions that are done by hires carers in an assisted living scenario can be done without outside intervention.
It currently costs £600 per week to live in a care home, that goes up to more than £800 per week if you’re looking at a nursing home. Meaning that you could easily install all the tech which could mean living at home for another few years for the price of a month’s assisted living. You get independence, privacy, dignity and the joy of staying in your own home.
Smart tech provides a great deal of independence. If there are things you can’t do any more, or you tend to forget, smart tech has it covered. Jumping up every time the doorbell rings might be a problem, no worries, have the door monitor show who’s arrived on the TV. If you find you can’t keep track of whether you’ve taken your pills, either forgetting to take them or doubling up then a smart pill dispenser will tell you when to take them, with a light, a voice reminder or text, and will also alert the emergency services or a care provider if it detects a problem.
Ongoing Monitoring Means Not Having To Wait For An Emergency Before Leaping Into Action
The idea is that you are monitored constantly, not waiting for an emergency and then coping with that. A subscriber to an emergency alert fob service was recently found having fallen and pressed their button but nobody came. The company had gone out of business and nobody was monitoring the line.
Since the industrial revolution average life expectancy has increased year on year so that it’s entirely likely that you or I will live to be a hundred or more. This is despite our sedentary lifestyles and that means that there are many elderly people with chronic and complex health conditions. Conditions which are managed through medication and medical specialists servicing their complex healthcare needs. These drugs and specialists are costly. Yet if you’re paying a specialist to simply come to the home each day, ask a few questions on general health, take temperature, blood pressure and sugar levels, heart rate and pulse you’re paying for something to be once a day or even less frequently when there is cheap, reliable technology which could do the same thing constantly 24 hours a day.
This constant monitoring has positive long term outcomes too. With a year or two’s data gathered via your mattress, fitbit and other Wireless Body Area Network (WBAN) your doctor is able to notice trends, health concerns that are beginning to present and those which are easily manageable with therapy. Raw data is far more revealing and accurate than a consultation where the patient is reticent, feels fine on the day, or doesn’t want to make a fuss, believing that their care will be more expensive if they present all the concerns they have at once.
Indeed, it’s been found that robot doctors are more accurate in diagnosis than their human counterparts. They take on a slew of raw data, running a full array of test and monitoring changes in real time. However, understandably, people prefer and would rather trust the diagnosis of a human doctor. Despite being statistically more effective, robots simply don’t have the bedside manner of a human medico.
Maintain Dignity And Independence By Staying At Home For As Long As Possible
Monitoring vital signs allows one to ‘Age in Place,’ ie, to remain in the home one has owned for decades, has become comfortable in and made one’s own. As well as monitoring bodily functions such as heart rate and respiration, they assist where sight, hearing and cognitive impairment. The fact that you can speak to your house and have it obey your instructions has obvious benefits. Installing actuators which will open interior doors when you approach them, access control which will unlock the front door to your nurse or doctor while keeping anybody else out makes movement easier. And if you’re losing your speech, you have the option of running your home from a touch screen. So there’s no need to fuss with light switches, thermostats, and floor level power points.
Automated Home technology doesn’t just work as a long term solution. Motion detectors and home cameras can detect sudden movement followed by inactivity, indicative of a fall, they can listen out for noises which would be associated with a trip or accident and distinguish between normal and abnormal activity. Falls and trips are a major cause of injury among seniors and even when it’s only a minor injury, or no injury at all has occurred, 47% of people still need help getting back to their feet. If you can’t get up, even if you’re not hurt, then problems begin to compound and a simple issue can soon escalate if not adequately attended to. If you’re struggling to speak or move as a result of a stroke there is technology in place which can detect your strife immediately and make the appropriate calls. Not only that, but the technology will turn up the heat if you can’t get up, keeping you as comfortable as possible, and ensure the doors are unlocked when medial staff or paramedics arrive.
Living In Your Own Home Is All About Enjoying Your Retirement While You May
But independent living as an older person isn’t all about medication, therapy and illness. It has to be about the fun things too. What’s the point of working all your way to retirement if you can’t enjoy this well earned rest-of-your-life vacation? Smart home solutions allow you to do mundane tasks easily and awkward jobs effortlessly. Maintaining your lifestyle to the way in which you’re accustomed is the key thing to staying in your own home. No major upheaval, but a few helpful adaptations for the sake of your independence are surely worth it?
If you can book a taxi, a pizza, do your shopping, pay bills, brows the latest movies, TV and radio, manage your own security, healthcare and know that in an emergency you’ll be looked after you feel more confident and comfortable in your own home. Fitting all these capabilities into your home comes at a low initial outlay, certainly cheaper than hiring healthcare providers and less inconvenient than approaching family and friends to help you whenever you need something. Not only are they affordable, they increase efficiency, use only a little energy themselves and are also unobtrusive. The key to useful technology is when you use it every day but hardly notice it’s there.
If you’re getting on in years but still active, why not give Briant Communications a call? We can talk to you about your needs today and your concerns for the future, and how home automation can be enhanced and augmented to accommodate innovation and technological development.