Wireless monitoring system for dementia prepares to roll out

UK-based wireless monitoring vendor Just Checking has officially launched an Australian arm following a successful trial with Alzheimer’s Australia WA and the Silver Chain Group, and will feature at the Information Technology in Aged Care (ITAC) conference, opening in Melbourne tomorrow.

The Just Checking system collects data on the movements of people with dementia or physical and intellectual disabilities. It uses radio-based, battery-operated passive infrared sensors placed in each room with a velcro patch, and a two-part magnet and radio-transmitter door contact.

A controller is plugged into the home or facility power supply and sends data to a password-protected website every four minutes, via the GPRS network.

The company is currently working on an update that will have logging of, and access to, data in real time.

“As an occupational therapist you are trying to minimise the impact of the memory impairment,” Just Checking operations manager Ellen Bragger said.

This is usually done through a combination of modifications to the physical environment – such a signage around the home or path-finding sensor lights – and education for family and carers about the impact of dementia on the patient and on them.

However, in the case of Elsie – a real person with dementia receiving home care whose family has given permission for her case to be discussed – Just Checking's round-the-clock wireless monitoring system was used to investigate how Elsie was using her space.

To her family and carers, she appeared to be sleeping all day and awake at night, and they were also worried that she was refusing meals.

Fitting of the sensors showed very quickly that, contrary to the impression of her family and carers, she did sleep through the night. Elsie was also logged at the kitchen three times a day, at mealtimes. The data also provided new information, showing that she had stopped showering.

Using the movement data that was collected, Elsie’s family was able to amend her care plan to increase her support where she needed it while maintaining as much independence as possible.

“It’s very simple data that’s actually very powerful,” Ms Bragger said.

As well as clues to behaviours such as Elsie’s that can improve nutrition and hygiene, movement data can point to walking behaviours linked to anxiety, Ms Bragger said.

Just Checking was developed in the UK a decade ago, and has since been taken up by more than three-quarters of local health authorities.

Ms Bragger worked for Just Checking in the UK and has been examining the feasibility of introducing it to the Australian market since mid-2011.

Last year, Just Checking teamed up with Alzheimer’s Australia WA and the Silver Chain nursing service to deliver a pilot program in Albany, Geraldton and Perth.

In the trial, 15 homes using community or respite care services, or working with the Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service, were fitted with Just Checking's professional model sensor kits.

Industry has responded well to the pilot, and to date eight organisations have expressed interest in Just Checking, Ms Bragger said. She is now conducting two more trials. Results from the WA pilot are expected to be released within a fortnight.

For the professional model, two to four weeks is usually sufficient to analyse the data charts and work up a care plan around it, she said.

For the family model – which will be launched in Australia in July – users often wish to keep the sensors in place for longer than a month, to feel greater connectedness and to help them make an informed decision on changing care requirements.

The family model will also feature an alert function can be set that will notify relatives when a door sensor is triggered.

Posted in Aged Care

Comments   

# Vadim P. 2013-05-01 11:16
Brilliant idea - this technology is reasonable and is definitely helping deliver better care for the patients.

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