by Audrey Kinsella
A Nashville-based technology company, Evermind, debuted at last January's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas with an easy-to-use monitoring system for keeping a subtle eye on seniors living alone. The system allows faraway caregivers or adult children to track their adult parents' daily routines without having to ask them to wear or carry any kind of device.
Our Live Test
Evermind representative Bernice Hollins provided us with a demo system and we have been testing it for eight weeks with a 90-year old widow living in the home she and her late husband moved into in 1951.
We chose to attach the three units to a coffee maker, the living room TV, and a desktop computer's monitor (the computer itself stays on most of the time and would not have provided useful information).
Typical texts, using location and device names we created, read, "The living room TV at Mom's House was switched OFF at 9:48PM." or "No monitored appliance at Mom's House was switched ON or OFF between 4am and 10am."
By monitoring each message, we can watch "Mom" as she goes from her morning coffee to her Bonanza reruns to Spider Solitaire to the 11:00 news to bed. We even found we could add a feature Evermind had not anticipated.
"Mom" has a hard time remembering to wear her PERS pendant or carry her cordless landline phone around the house and outside when she works in her garden. She does, however, seem to be often within arm's reach of the TV remote. We tested and found that she can remember to repeatedly turn the TV on and off with the remote if she has a fall or needs other help late at night.
If we see a constant flow of texts, we know something is wrong and can call for help, no matter how far away we are.
Based on our test, we can confidently recommend the Evermind system in the right situation. It may not be PERS but it comes quite close.
Three sensors plug into power outlets where common items such as lamps, coffee makers, or televisions are powered. The master sensor finds the nearest Verizon cell tower and the other two communicate through the master. Installation is as simple as plugging in a power cord and no in-home Wi-Fi is required. Once installed, the remote observer registers the system on the Evermind web site, gives each unit a name, and submits the cell phone number where alerts are to be delivered. The whole installation process takes less than 10 minutes. Additional sets of three sensors can be installed without interfering with the first set, but more than three are typically not necessary if the first three are strategically attached to the right appliances.
Immediately, the registered phone begins to receive text messages every time a monitored appliance is turned on or off, or if no appliance is turned on or off within a designated 6-hour period, usually 4-10am, 10am-4pm, and 4-10pm. From anywhere, adult children are able to "see" when the coffee maker was turned on in the morning, when the TV was turned on and off throughout the day, or when the bedroom lamp was turned off at night.
The one restriction is that only wall-plugged appliances can be monitored; not, for example, lights activated by wall switches. List price for three sensors is $199.00, plus a $29.00/month subscription fee.
Just enough information
For some people, knowing Mom is going about her normal routine is all they need to know to be sure a relatively healthy senior is okay. Not every senior needs to have daily vital signs checked but every remote adult child needs a little peace of mind. I am reminded of another, even lower-tech approach used by a security service at a senior living complex where my 84-year-old mother once lived. Residents were required to hang a plastic sign on their doorknobs each morning — like a hotel's "Do Not Disturb" sign — that said, "I am up." Not a lot of information, but just enough for the facility's staff.
Home telehealth pioneer Steven Kaufman once publicly suggested that video surveillance would be regarded by seniors as "Big Brother" spying. Evermind's idea to monitor appliances, not people, removes that concern while still reporting to remote children that Mom is up and around and doing what she normally does.
Home care providers, especially private duty companies, would add a system such as Evermind to their list of available services for selected clients who are not seen every day. For a fee, an adult child's cell number could be added to the list so that both caregivers and loved ones would know that coffee is being brewed at the expected time, the TV is turned off at a normal bedtime and Mom is not turning on the living room lamp at 3am. When alerts indicate she has deviated from her normal routine, the adult child can make a phone call and the home care agency can knock on the door. Together, they can determine whether more active monitoring is indicated.
Dashboard for Management by Exception
Professional caregivers may want to attach the system to Home Medical Equipment, such as portable ventilators and knee exercisers. The web-based Evermind dashboard supports management by exception, with graphs showing on and off times for each device over time added to standard text reports. The dashboard provides for the creation of a rights hierarchy so that individuals can see reports from their own patients and supervisors can see data from all patients. (See the sidebar for a report on our own test of the Evermind system.)
Audrey Kinsella, MA, MS, is HCTR's telemedicine reporter. She has written on home telehealthcare and new technologies for home care service delivery for 20 years, in 6 books, multiple web sites, and more than 150 published articles. Audrey can be reached at email@example.com or 828-348-5308.
©2015 by Rowan Consulting Associates, Inc., Colorado Springs, CO. All rights reserved. This article originally appeared in Tim Rowan's Home Care Technology Report. homecaretechreport.com One copy may be printed for personal use; further reproduction by permission only. firstname.lastname@example.org