Age-Technology-How AI and IoT (Internet of Things) in Healthcare Can Help Dementia Patients
From a smartphone to a motion sensor, technology experts are using the Internet to get wireless devices to talk to each other to keep dementia patients safe and improve their health and well-being.
Medical providers, caregivers, and family members are taking advantage of the Internet of Things (IoT)—a term for connecting “things” or objects with automated systems via the Internet—to give additional support to dementia patients.
By using IoT, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and automated systems, dementia patients can be taught how to use devices to monitor their health and help them with routine activities, such as socializing, cooking, and dressing.
Older adults and their caregivers can also benefit from IoT and AI on a daily basis. For instance, people with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia may begin to wander as cognitive disorder progresses. Wireless technology, such as Radio Frequency Identification, a Global Positioning System tracker, and motion sensors attached to wristbands, clothing, or shoe soles, can be used to track patients.
In using Internet-connected wireless devices, like a smartphone, nurses, caregivers, or family members can receive real-time notifications on the patient’s or loved one’s location.
Moreover, IoT and AI can also collect and store data on dementia patients for analysis by a doctor or for use by researchers studying certain health conditions.
Smart Sensor Monitors Movements
Some older adults with dementia, particularly those in the early stages of the disease, want to continue to live independently, which worries family members or caregivers. A Vancouver-based tech firm has developed a smart home care alert system to ease these concerns.
The Cypress sensor, created by AltumView Systems Inc., uses AI and a wireless network to provide around-the-clock monitoring of a senior’s movement and activities. Cypress can detect emergencies, such as falls, waves for help, or when people with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, start wandering. The device reports these incidents in real-time to caregivers or family members who have an app on a mobile device.
According to the company, Cypress maintains seniors’ privacy by outlining them as stick figures. What’s more, the sensor does not store personal information and it encrypts all communication between the sensor and the cloud.
Cypress can also perform a risk assessment for falls by providing a visual heat map of an area where falls frequently occur. This risk assessment allows family members or caregivers to keep the area safe by removing the obstacles causing the accidents.
The company sees its smart home care alert system as a benefit during the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic (COVID-19) because it reduces unnecessary contact and creates a safer environment for older adults.
More Adults Using Telehealth During COVID-19 Pandemic
When the COVID-19 outbreak began, patients with dementia, as well as other older adults, were not allowed to go for routine doctor visits. So, health care professionals began using technology to keep older adults safe at home while addressing their health needs.
Seniors had already been talking with their doctors over smartphones, computers, or tablets prior to the pandemic, but not nearly as often as they did when states were shut down to reduce the further spread of COVID-19.
Using technology may have been challenging to older adults with—and without—dementia, but many received help from family members, friends, and caregivers who helped with the telehealth process. A poll conducted by the Better Medicare Alliance found that 91 percent of seniors who used telehealth reported having a favorable experience and 78 percent said they would be likely to use it again.
Telehealth has also worked out for home healthcare professionals. For instance, a home care specialist who normally would visit a patient to take care of a wound can observe the wound with a high-resolution camera to determine if it is infected if it needs to breathe, or needs a particular ointment. The specialist can show the senior or caregiver how to care for the wound, if necessary.
With insurers reimbursing more telehealth services, and older adults becoming more comfortable with technology, telehealth services are expected to expand beyond COVID-19.
Using Technology To Train Robots
It becomes more difficult for people with dementia to communicate as the disease progresses. While it takes longer for them to process their thoughts and respond to what’s around them, people with dementia can still understand nonverbal signals and body language.
With assistance from AI and other types of technology, researchers in South Korea are training robots to assist the elderly and teaching them verbal and nonverbal communication skills.
According to Woo-Ri Ko, a researcher at the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI), robots should be trained to understand the nonverbal behaviors of the elderly, infer their intentions, and respond appropriately. To do this, ETRI researchers developed, AIR-Act2Act, a dataset (collection of data) that can be used to teach robots nonverbal social behaviors.
The dataset contained over 5000 interactions recorded between younger people and older people. The interactions included shaking hands, bowing when someone enters, hugging, waving, coming closer when someone calls. The purpose is to have robots recognize these nonverbal human interactions on their own and respond to the behaviors accordingly.
Ko said it’s important for robots to generate more diverse behavior. ETRI researchers also published AIR-Act2Act so that developers around the globe can get access to the information and develop more advanced and responsive humanoid robots to help the elderly.