Sensor Networks Keep Alzheimer’s Patients Safe

Alzheimer's

According to a report from the BBC, a Norwegian healthcare technology company named Abilia  has come up with a novel idea which may help keep Alzheimer’s disease patients safe:  a sensor network in the patient’s home which can be used to track their activities and send an alarm if help is needed.

The central feature of the system is a wall-mounted control panel similar to an iPad.  Patients can use the device to Skype with their caregivers, record reminders for daily activities like medications or post upcoming events that they want to remember, such as birthdays and doctor appointments.

The device can also be wirelessly connected with a series of sensors, allowing the system to track the person’s movements.   The device can then send out an alarm if something potentially dangerous happens, for example, if they person leaves their home late at night or a stove is left on unattended.

About 1,000 people in Norway currently have the device and 25 of those people are testing out the latest version of the system, which includes the wireless sensors.

The product was developed partially in response to the harsh winters that the country experiences, which can mean death by exposure for Alzheimer’s patients who wander away from their homes.

According to Abilia company vice president Oystein Johnsen, the system will also save the Norwegian government a great deal of money.  The cost of caring for an Alzheimer’s patient in Norway is about one million Norwegian krone per year, compared to only 15,000 krone for the purchase of his company’s device.  These figures translate to roughly about $169,000 and $2,500 respectively in U.S. dollars.

Smart homes are where future technology is headed, say experts, and products like Abilia’s are an excellent way to use that technology to help the elderly live independently for as long as possible.

Similar systems could also be used to help a variety of patients be more independent in their homes, such as those who have mobility issues or other medical conditions which make it difficult for them to live alone.

The families who are currently using the system say that it gives them added peace of mind having the sensor network in place.  If a loved one with Alzheimer’s leaves the home or has a problem, they immediately know it and can take action to keep them safe.

The patients appreciate it as well because it helps them to understand what would otherwise be a very confusing world.

Other futuristic innovations which were profiled by the BBC include a “magic carpet” which detects when the person walking on it as it risk of falling and a GPS tagging system which can be used to help caregivers track the location of their elderly loved ones.

Abilia has two resellers in the U.S.:  Adaptive Switch Laboratories, Inc. in Spicewood, Texas and ZYGO-USA in Fremont, California.

The system of sensor networks is still going through a pilot test in Norway.  It was unclear from the BBC article whether the safety device is available yet for Alzheimer’s patients in other countries.

Written by Nancy Schimelpfening

Abilia

BBC

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