Technology and Aging-In-Place, Part 2

November 8, 2018 | Comments

In Part 1, we took a look at the basics of outfitting a home for an elder relative.

The cost of caring for an aging relative can be daunting. As Ric Johnson of Ohio’s Right at Home Technologies notes, “Our experience shows that nursing care runs around $7,250 per month for full service — that includes three meals, snacks, onsite nursing.  Alzheimer’s nursing care can start at $9,300 (or more) per month at a specialized facility.”

Renovating an existing home or adding a room or suite of rooms to a home for an aging relative has benefits beyond monthly savings, says Johnson. “Providing upgrades so that an Alzheimer’s patient can stay in a familiar location — and around family members — not only reduces overall cost, but also slows the progression slightly, allowing for a better quality of life.”

Johnson’s bona fides include the “Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS)” certification from the National Association of Home Builders. “The CAPS certification provides builders, designers, technologists, nurses, and others the necessary background to provide for this growing market.” This certification means that everyone who carries this credential into an “Aging in Place” build or retrofit will have a handle on the details: As Johnson notes, the builder needs to coordinate closely with the electrical contractor and technologist because additional dedicated 20 amp circuits are needed for sensors and other devices.

Additionally, says Johnson, “In some jurisdictions, hospital grade equipment in used and needed in the patient’s bedroom. A very secure network is required, in many cases separate from the houses internet connection to allow transfer of data between the patient portal and the attending medical staff.”

Safety and Simplicity

As with an audio/video installation, a properly ventilated equipment rack tucked away in its own lockable closet is often a must. Other considerations: Dedicated wiring space in bathrooms (away from water and plumbing), light switches placed lower on the walls, and receptacle outlets in higher-than-usual locations to make everything easily accessible for a user with limited mobility. “Because we require pressure sensors on the floor and RFID readers embedded in wall locations near the baseboard, additional shielding is necessary to protect the wiring from trim nails and the like.” Another issue: Technology integrators know the proper cabling techniques to ensure that signal interference is eliminated.

But how does one overcome “technology phobia” — how does an integrator make these systems easy to use for BOTH the aging individual and their loved ones?

“First, most of the equipment we provide is hidden and works without additional touch, much like a security system — but in our case, without the arming and disarming functions,” explains Johnson. “Our equipment reports activity or lack thereof. Lighting comes on and off automatically, following the natural progression of the day with additional sensors that keep lights on during times of darkness due to storms or clouds, by using photocells to override programing at those times.

“Yes, we have touchscreens and keypads, but they are normally used by caregivers for particular reasons.  Most of the ‘technology’ is already familiar to the user, such as messaging or emailing alerts, warning lights, and so on.”