Coordinated Care Management

February 13, 2012

New Home Health Technology Allows Elderly to 'Age in Place'

We’ve all heard of home healthcare, nurses or aides who visit the elderly or sick at home and make sure they’re taking their medication and that their vital signs are normal. But now there’s something called home health technology, and it’s allowing many people with chronic disease to remain at home without direct physical care. The care is provided through monitoring.

According to a story at the American Sentinel blog, it may be one of the things that revolutionizes health care in the coming years.

Why? Our aging population, the blog says. Just a few chronic conditions (heart disease, hypertension, diabetes) make up the biggest part of medical spending “and these conditions tend to worsen as people get older,” the blog reports, adding that Medicare officials have put the number of its beneficiaries with at least one chronic condition at a staggering 84 percent.

With the baby boom generation already reaching retirement age, and many of them requiring medical help with chronic diseases, “The additional demands on the health care system will be enormous,” according to the blog.

The Alzheimer’s Reading Room estimates that, “by 2030, nearly one in five Americans—71.5 million people—will be over age 65.” And today, there are more than 35 million Americans age 65 or above — a number that’s increased by 10 times in the 65 and over population since 1900, according to the site. Even more astounding, “Over the next 20 years, that number will double, and one in every five Americans will be age 65 or older,” the site reports.

Home health technologies have come to the rescue, and they include devices that can monitor insulin levels for diabetes, or heart rhythm for patients with cardiac disease, and it’s all done remotely, with no doctor or nurse in sight, so people can remain in their homes. Patients – and even their doctors – can be anywhere and still be aware of health conditions, and physicians can intervene, if necessary.

In many cases, these new devices can reduce the need for re-hospitalization and save costs all the way around. 

The blog points out that we have a new cultural idea these days, “aging in place.” Partly due to the negative perceptions of many of nursing homes, and also driven by a fierce desire for the elderly to remain independent, even with chronic disease, this new movement is very appealing according to a recent survey where 89 percent said they wished to remain in their own homes, the blog says.

The idea of aging in place gave rise to the Aging in Place Initiative, a partnership between Partners for Livable Communities and the National Association of Agencies on Aging, and the survey.  The initiative seeks to help the aging live in communities where they can be assisted in living on their own.

In the past the elderly had no choice when they became ill and inform but to move into a nursing home or in with relatives. But the new “aging in place” idea revolves around the technology that is constantly being developed to help the elderly remain in their homes, and safe, even with chronic disease. 

The idea of “aging in place” relies on “patient self-management, patient engagement, remote monitoring, and interactive communications with medical professionals,” according to the blog. These new home health technology devices allow anyone suffering from chronic disease – not just the elderly – to live at home and still be monitored.

Deborah DiSesa Hirsch is an award-winning health and technology writer who has worked for newspapers, magazines and IBM in her 20-year career. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves
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