According to U.S. Census data, almost 40 million U.S. residents are over 65, a senior population that is expected to more than double by 2050 with particularly rapid growth in the number of people over the age of 80. Determined to be active and independent as long as possible, today’s baby boomers are exploring connected health solutions that provide support for staying in their own homes, or “aging in place.” As a result, the market for home health devices is crowded with services that will remind seniors to take their prescription medicine, monitor their vital signs, and send out medical alerts in the case of emergency situations like falls and accidents. With so many separate health monitoring systems to choose from, many families are searching for an easy-to-manage, customizable solution that can be expanded to suit the sometimes volatile health monitoring requirements of aging parents.
AtGuardianAngel, a Texas firm focused on the Aging in Place market, designed its My Guardian fall detection service to evolve with the changing needs of seniors and their families. According to Ed Caracappa, founder and CEO, the core fall detection technology is embedded in a lightweight wristwatch that seniors can wear round the clock. The My Guardian watch includes integrated accelerometers and a location-sensitive WiFi (News - Alert) connection that activates automatically to alert designated respondents and family members when it detects a fall. It uses FDA Cleared technology developed by AFrame Digital Inc. The watch also has an emergency alert button that the wearer can push to summon help whenever needed. The basic system costs around $1,000 and comes with all required components for fall detection. The monthly subscription and service cost is $79.95.
This basic connected health service may be enough to reassure the families of healthy, independent seniors that help will always be available in the case of an unexpected fall. Since the MyGuardian watch tracks time of day and continually communicates with the small WiFi routers that are plugged into electrical outlets throughout the home, the system can also discreetly monitor in-home activity and behavior patterns over time and alert family members to a lack of activity or troubling changes in behavior. This information can prompt early diagnosis of health problems or flag memory and behavior issues before an accident occurs.
Caracappa knows from his own family experience that aging parents living alone are often reluctant to tell their children about minor falls and incidents around the home. He realized that his father had gait and balance problems only after a major fall sent his father to the hospital. Alerting caregivers about even minor incidents will allow them to help seniors to avoid more serious accidents.
AtGuardianAngel works closely with families to customize each installation to fit the needs of the client, from early warning of balance or behavioral changes to integrating the system with a variety of medical monitoring devices. Clients determine the type of alerts to receive (either SMS or e-mail) and can provide a priority order of notification for up to six people based on different types of alerts. So a next door neighbor or close-by family member may be on the list to receive an alert of a fall, while another family member will be notified if the senior has not recorded taking their morning medicine. The company also takes on consultative and support role as long as the system is active – from training family members about what types of behavior patterns may indicate health problems to adding more WiFi outlets to expand the location tracking capacity of the system.
As medical needs change, Caracappa wants to be a long-term resource to clients, “Customer support for configuration changes is available throughout the service contract – for example if families want to monitor more areas of the home, or integrate other medical devices. Unfortunately, many people don’t think about the care of their aging loved ones until something bad, like a fall with an injury, has already occurred. We work closely with each family to understand their concerns for present and to help them plan for the future. Our passion is healthy aging in place, and we are constantly looking to expand our services to make that vision possible for all seniors.”
In addition to the MyGuardian fall detection solution and other connected health services for seniors, MedHealthWorld is covering home health monitoring options such as Android and Apple tablets and wireless monitoring devices for chronic conditions. Dr. Cronin is a Professor of Management in the Information Systems Department at Boston College. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Jaclyn Allard