Human technology

Sensor technology alerts caregivers when nursing home resident walks around

Elva Mitchell’s 99-year-old mother Kay Richardson lived on her own until just over two years ago when she moved into a seniors’ residence outside Halifax , Nova Scotia. Then the pandemic hit.

“It shut down his world,” Mitchell said. “It went from somewhat confusing to almost total confusion. The pandemic robbed her of her last two years.”

Mitchell kicked her out of the residence, moved her to Ontario and into her own home in the village of Richmond, located on the outskirts of Ottawa.

Elva Mitchell, left, and her mother Kay Richardson celebrate a family birthday in June 2021. (Submitted)

But caring for her mother, whose dementia worsened, was difficult.

“She was up all night. Frequently. And my mom doesn’t sleep much during the day. She’s not a big nap. So that meant I was with her 24/7,” Mitchell said.

When an opening arose at Carefor Richmond Care Home, a mile from Mitchell’s home, “we chose to move for her.”

Richardson is now one of 16 residents, all of whom have cognitive issues related to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Many have “sunset” issues – increased confusion or anxiety late in the day, wandering or trouble sleeping through the night.

But now technology lends a hand.

A flat bed sensor is placed on top of the mattress, but under the sheets and mattress protector. When a resident gets out of bed, it sends a signal to a server at esprit-ai in Kanata. (Alexander Behne/CBC)

3 sensors in one room

The care home has partnered with esprit-ai, a west-Ottawa company that uses 5G technology to keep seniors safe, using a system of electronic sensors.

The sensors detect when a resident gets out of bed, or wanders into their room, or opens the door and potentially wakes up other residents.

Robin Meyers, director of community support services and personal support services at Carefor, describes a scenario in which an agitated resident can wake up half a dozen others and overwhelm night staff.

Patrick Tan is president of esprit-ai. The Kanata company uses sensors and 5G technology to monitor people with dementia. (Alexander Behne/CBC)

“A person wakes up…a little disoriented, maybe a little agitated. They open their door…to find someone else. [They] go to the next room. They find their friend. They wake them up. Then they find the next person. They wake them up,” she said.

“If you could just tell that person is up and maybe needs to go to the bathroom or needs a little comfort or support, then you could stop the rest of the people from getting up and having this restless night.”

This is where early warning signals generated by sensors come in handy. A flat sensor is placed under the bedding and the mattress protector, another is mounted high on the wall and a third contact sensor is on the door. They are designed to be discreet.

This motion-detecting wall sensor blends in with window and curtain hardware. (CBC / Radio Canada)

“Like any human being, we don’t want to be watched. We don’t want to feel like prisoners. So we want it to be totally, if possible, completely invisible,” said Patrick Tan, president of spirit. -have.

“It’s a matter of dignity. … I don’t have to shout to the world that I need help.”

When a resident triggers one of the sensors, a signal is sent to the spirit-ai servers. Raw data is analyzed and if action is warranted, an SMS is sent to night staff.

The spirit-ai servers analyze the raw data to determine if an alert is warranted. If so, an SMS is sent to night carers. (Alexander Behne/CBC)

Helps staff plan an overnight response

Meyers says the system helps staff be more strategic in their responses. If they knew that a particular resident had a very restless sleep, they may be on the lookout for an increased risk of falling the next day.

Staff can also use information gathered from sensor analysis to detect patterns of behavior that may suggest a need for a change in routine or lead to less medication.

Mitchell sees the sensors as an extra layer of protection for her mother. But she’s also glad the dollar-sized sensors are unobtrusive.

A common area of ​​the Carefor Richmond Care Home in the village of Richmond on the outskirts of Ottawa. According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, more than 500,000 people are living with dementia, a figure that is expected to reach 912,000 by 2030. (Alexander Behne/CBC)

“We don’t need alarm bells ringing. The discretion of this device allows staff or a family to protect a loved one without it being in their face,” Mitchell said.

Tan hopes to expand the spirit-ai system beyond retirement homes into private homes. Installing the sensors costs $200 per resident, but monitoring and analyzing the raw data requires a subscription that costs $80 per month.

Each of Richmond Care Home’s 16 rooms is equipped with three sensors that alert night staff when a resident may need additional care. (Alexander Behne/CBC)

Mitchell believes that having access to this technology would have allowed her to keep her mother at home longer.

“I’ll be honest, I’m surprised it took us this long to get there,” Mitchell said.

Carefor plans to expand the sensor program to two of its retirement homes in Pembroke, Ontario.