Home Automation and Home Health Care

In the movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey, HAL (Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer) kept a watchful eye on the crew.How Home Automation Can Change the Home Health Care Industry

By Spencer Blohm

In-home care is one of the biggest growth industries of the last twenty years. It makes sense; elderly folks don’t want to be chained down to a nursing home, and an in-home care aid gives them independence without sacrificing their health needs. However, in-home care aides and family members can’t always be with grandma and grandpa. That’s why home automation systems make sense for protecting the dignity of your loved one, while giving you, the caretaker, some room to run out and perform necessary chores. Here are some features to consider.

Video surveillance features are common parts of home automation systems. With video surveillance, you can safely monitor your loved one from their home, ensuring that if they fall and can’t reach the phone, you’ll still be able to get there to assist them. For patients with high-risk conditions, such as epilepsy or heart disease, this is a great way to ensure they can have their privacy without putting their health at risk. Video surveillance is also great for protecting their homes against vandalism or robbery, providing peace of mind that their home is safe from external forces. Additionally, video surveillance features offered by ADT and others have gotten so advanced that caregivers can monitor patients from their laptops or cell phones, meaning if they need to rush out to get groceries, they’re always connected with their patients.

Voice intercom is another great home automation feature. A lot of elderly people have trouble with cell phones, although increasingly they’re catching on, and companies are marketing specific phones at the aging demographic. While commonly this is a generational issue, it’s also an issue for people with failing eyesight. Voice intercoms allow you to communicate with your loved one when they’re in a room that’s inaccessible by phone. They’re also slightly more subtle than video surveillance, providing a greater sense of privacy. This option helps to improve communication while preserving a sense of independence.

Remote locking and unlocking of doors is a great feature to pair with a voice intercom. When loved ones have medical issues or emergencies in locked rooms, such as their bedroom or bathroom, this allows caregivers to unlock the door with a touch of a button. For patients with mobility limitations, there are also fully automated doors that open with the press of a button, allowing them to get around the house without struggling to open doors. Therefore, these systems aren’t just great for patient safety, but patient ease of living as well.

If you’re a caregiver hoping to provide the best quality of life for your loved one, consider talking to them about the benefits of home automation. These systems are increasingly easy to use, and they help to avoid the sky-high costs that could come with a person entering a nursing home. For elderly folks who want to continue a life of freedom and independence, home automation is can help mitigate the risks that go along with that path. Think about talking with them about the benefits of home automation today.

Editor’s Perspective

Spencer’s article above concentrates on video surveillance, which may seem a bit freaky until you consider the benefits. But home automation can be used for many more things, including remote access and control of lights, thermostats & home appliances; as well as television, video & music systems; security alarms & monitoring systems; and home health care monitors, alarms & communication devices. Besides placing sensors on doors and windows for home security, the same type of sensors can also be put on refrigerators, medicine cabinets, and even shower doors to monitor daily activity. The motion sensors that we normally associate with security can also be used to turn on dim lights for someone who gets up at night to pee, or can be used to monitor not just their activity but their gait (how fast they walk). This information, tracked over time, can give insight into the slow progression of health problems. In this video, Intel’s Eric Dishman shows how even an old corded telephone can be used to monitor health.

Even though I could write a book on Home Automation for Home Health Care, I’m happy to publish Spensor’s byline article and those of others with different perspectives. As for my own views of on home automation and the “smart home” concept, they were born while working in market strategy for IBM, where I introduced the company to the whole “connected home” market opportunity and helped launch IBM’s Home Director. After Home Director was eventually spun off as an independent company and IBM got out of the consumer markets I had invested time in, I retired to start CAZITech, a Digital Home consulting firm. Below is an introduction video from IBM Home Director, followed by a short collection of related articles.

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