Courier Staff Writer
Technology can help us communicate, be more efficient and make work a little easier. It is also being used to enhance the quality of life for senior citizens in new ways.
Technology being used at the Good Samaritan Society campus in Ottumwa is one example of these advances. In an effort to be proactive in their health-monitoring services, the LivingWell Home program has been designed to record health indicators and monitor daily changes in residents’ activity. The combination of motion sensors and a vital signs tracker can detect subtle changes in an individual that may not be noticed otherwise.
“Through technology, we can add another layer to the safety and care we’re giving,” said Pamela Wilson, director of campus housing at Good Samaritan Society — Ottumwa. “It provides us and our residents with guidance to help identify health-related issues.”
In August, each of the 24 apartments in the assisted living facility at Good Samaritan was equipped with motion-sensor technology. There are now three motion sensors in the apartment, one motion and humidity sensor in the shower, one monitor on the front door and one sensor on the mattress.
These unobtrusive sensors, which are wireless and battery operated, relay their information to data monitors in the hallway. The information is sent to the national facility in Sioux Falls, S.D., where nurses will analyze the data and make note of any variances in the residents’ normal behavior.
“It’s not technology that they have to know or use. It’s just sending information and creating a baseline of health and activity,” Wilson explained.
Because they are not security cameras or recording devices, the residents at Good Samaritan may never even interact with the sensors at all.
For example, the front door monitor will record when and how often the resident enters and exits their apartment on a normal day. If that were to increase or decrease sharply, a nurse would be notified. Then they can check with the resident to see if they are not feeling well, just having a quiet day at home or need assistance in some way.
Similarly, the sensor on the matress may indicate increased levels of tossing and turning. This may indicate a health problem, Wilson said, and issues can be addressed before they become more serious.
“We’re able to be proactive rather than wait until there is a serious problem. Our intent is to keep people in their homes as long as we can,” she said.
The use of the sensor technology is completely voluntary — residents can opt out at any time. The monitors are available in all of the rooms, but can be turned off if the resident chooses. As new residents move in, they can opt in or out of sensor technology. Currently, all of the residents of the Good Samaritan in Ottumwa are using the sensor technology.
In addition to the regular screening Good Samaritan does, the Teleheath technology is a way for residents to track their own vital signs and have them recorded. They are able to get a print-out of their health information and take it to their physician.
“They’ll have their vitals to take with them, and they will be accurate and complete,” Wilson said. “It tracks weight, blood pressure, pulse, oxygen and heart rate, and it will note any changes from the last time they used the monitor.”
The Good Samaritan Society began developing this technology in June 2010. They worked with health technology companies to create the systems that would work best for their residents, and they have been using it in their home health care settings.
Many of the 240 Good Samaritan centers across 27 states have assisted living facilities, and by December 2013, they will all be using the sensor and monitoring technology.