With the demand for expensive senior care options rising quickly, researchers are exploring new ways for technology to help healthcare providers and caregivers to remotely monitor seniors in their own homes at a lower cost. According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, around thirteen million Americans require some level of assistance with daily living activities, and most of these people are seniors. The demand for living assistance is expected to more than double over the next few years as an estimated twenty-seven million Americans will need care by 2050.
The cost for nursing homes and assisted living communities is incredibly high. Nursing home rooms can cost as much as $90,000 annually, and long-term care costs rise on average almost five percent every year. And while cost is a major factor driving the push for new assisted care technologies, it is not the only one. Over ninety percent of all seniors want to stay in their homes for as long as possible, but many are unable to do so because their homes cannot accommodate their living needs.
Assisted Living Care Technologies
Right now there are a few medical technologies available to help seniors and serve as medical alert systems. Special bracelets or pendants can be used that serve as communication devices if a senior falls or in an emergency like a fire. However, researchers are now working on a new technology – advanced sensor networks and smart homes.
These sensors give healthcare workers real time information about a senior’s health and wellbeing while in the home. The sensor enabled homes learn to recognize behavior and activity patterns. It then learns to report any signs of illness or cognitive impairment over the internet to healthcare specialists or caregivers. The sensors can also send information to doctors and allow them to catch any medical issues before they become a serious problem. Having a sensor enabled home will allow the elderly to stay in their homes longer while maintaining a sense of independence and safety.
In addition, the sensor enabled homes cut costs dramatically on senior care. Compared to the costs of nursing homes, the sensors only cost around $2,500 on average to install in a home, plus a modest monthly fee to analyze the data. By some researchers’ estimates, states could save up to $9 million per day in elder care costs if only ten percent of the state’s seniors had sensors in their homes. While it will not eliminate the need for nursing homes and long-term care facilities, this new technology will allow seniors to safely stay in their homes for longer as well as save on cost.
Impediments to New Technology
While the sensor enabled homes show a lot of promise for the health, happiness, and financial wellbeing of seniors there are still some hurdles to overcome before there is wide acceptance of the product. In terms of payment, currently insurance plans do not cover the cost of installing the sensors in the home. Additionally, as more companies grow the vendors will need to set technological standards for interoperability. Finally, the acceptance of technology in general with most seniors is the largest obstacle.
Many of the elderly are uncomfortable with new technology and may be resistant to learning how this new system will work inside their homes. However, given that the sensors will allow them to live in their own homes for longer and avoid nursing home care it may be enough to trump any nervousness of accepting this new type of care.