The growing range of intelligent sensors—everything from mattress sensors that capture night restlessness to wearable systems that record pulse rates and gait patterns—can help residents in assisted living stay safer and more independent while helping caregivers catch clinical problems early and identify downward trends in function.
A new study published in JAMA compared groups of residents from 13 assisted living communities who spent a year interacting with a variety of smart sensors that measured overall activity, vital signs, sleep patterns and gait patterns. For those using the sensors, staffers received alerts when a resident’s data patterns changed, some via a daily summary email and others via real-time alerts. If someone experienced a serious change in vitals or a fall, caregivers were notified immediately.
Residents who didn’t use any senor technology experienced more rapid functional decline than those who did, the study showed. “With the innovative technological solutions like the ones we tested in this study, elders can benefit from early detection and recognition of small changes in health conditions,” the study authors wrote.
Sensor technology also could be a crucial tool in avoiding the hospital costs associated with escalation in illness since sensors can often detect changes in condition 10-14 days earlier than traditional methods, they added. “Sensor data with health alerts and fall alerts sent to nursing staff can be an effective strategy to detect and intervene in early signs of illness or functional decline.”