Can smart technology in the home be used to assess early functional and behavioral impairment?
Nirmalya Roy, Ph.D.
University of Maryland Baltimore County
Baltimore, MD - United States
Older adults (those aged 65 and over) who live independently often experience declines in memory and other cognitive functions, changes in behavior, and a waning ability to carry out daily tasks. These declines may occur gradually and go unnoticed until a serious incident occurs, such as a fall or an emergency room visit. In fact, evidence indicates that more than 14 percent of older adults report difficulty in carrying out activities of daily living, such as bathing, eating and dressing.
With the elderly population growing worldwide, it is vital to identify those older adults who show changes in their function or behavior before a crisis takes place. Yet, the current methods of evaluating function and behavior, which include office-based examinations and home-based supervision, remain inadequate. Examinations fail to reflect an individual’s abilities or inabilities in his or her home environment. While direct supervision is possible, it minimizes privacy for the individual and increases caregiver stress. A potential alternative to these methods may involve the use of smart technology in the home, including computer-based tools that can monitor and assess the activities of older people. Such technologies could be employed in an unobtrusive and relatively cost-effective manner, as well as a way to reach a larger number of individuals.
For their grant, Nirmalya Roy, Ph.D., and colleagues plan to develop a smart-technology-based assessment tool for older adults who live independently in their own homes or in a retirement community. This technology will include electronic sensors that capture the adults’ daily activities — information that can be used to develop an assessment tool thorough the measurements of their function, behavior, and brain health. Dr. Roy’s group will then test the effectiveness of the system in three participating retirement communities and care management programs.
If successful, this study could offer a novel method for assessing cognitive and functional health in wide range of older adults — those at risk of dementia and those who already have the disease. Ideally, the monitoring system could help all of these adults living independently to stay safe and live for longer periods of time in their own homes.
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