Monday, August 27, 2007

Innovation and Technology Applications in Senior Care

“Mom, lay back down and push your call button. Someone will help you get up. Lay back down now, mom!”

That’s the voice recording my friend Lane put on the fall alert device he recently purchased for his mother. She has been getting increasingly forgetful, and has been experiencing some falls. After a nasty fall last Christmas, Lane found an assisted living community near his home and was delighted to be able to secure a unit for his mom.

No matter how many times Lane and the staff there have instructed her she simply can’t remember to use the call system before getting out of bed. When she attempts this by herself, she falls. So far she has not suffered any injuries, but a few months ago while Lane was traveling out of the country, his mom fell again. To make sure she didn’t have any injuries the assisted living staff sent her to the hospital for a check-up and X-rays. At the hospital, staff became alarmed and determined that she wasn’t appropriate for assisted living – she was too great of a fall risk.

What happened next was a nightmare for Lane’s mom: admission to a skilled nursing center where, to prevent her falling, she was immediately put into a wheelchair and taken to the dining room, pushed up against the table and wheels locked in place.

She was accompanied on walks a couple of times a day, but other than that she was in the wheelchair, unable to get out.

When Lane returned from his trip, he was horrified to discover his mom unhappy, depressed and significantly weaker than when he left. Lane immediately moved her back into the assisted living community and started looking at options to keep her safe – and independently mobile. She uses a walker, and she wants to walk. While she seems to be able to walk relatively safely now, getting out of bed unassisted is her trouble spot.

Lane looked at alarm systems; by the time staff was alerted, however, his mom was out of bed and on the floor.

So he discovered the voice alarm alert. Now, he goes to visit his mom and she’ll say, “It was the strangest thing: I heard your voice in the middle of the night last night telling me to get back into bed!”

So far, mom has had no further falls. For Lane – and more importantly, for his mom – the risk of falling is not the worst thing that can happen. The worst thing, by far, is losing the independence and mobility she has left.

Do you know some innovative devices currently available to promote independence? Share them!

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