On June 23, we were fortunate to attend the Dementia and Technology Expo at Harmony Village at CareOne in Paramus, New Jersey. Harmony Village is the first dementia only assisted living in Bergen County. The facility employs a neighborhood concept where residents are separated by cognitive abilities from mild to moderate to advanced.
Of course, the main topic of conversation of attendees was dementia which has been rising in recent years. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.8 million Americans are living with the disease. By 2050, this number is projected to rise to nearly 14 million.
Harmony Village Sales Counselor Susan Ozer, who has been in the industry for thirteen years, has definitely noticed the increase. She’s also seen people affected by the disease getting younger.
“I’ve seen earlier ages, unfortunately. We have some people here at Harmony Village in their late 50’s and early 60’s. I’ve even seen people in their 40’s afflicted with the disease,” said Ozer.
Robots and Dementia Patients?
Harmony Village is a pretty modern building and is utilizing tech to help things run smoother and improve the experience for residents. The facility employs things like motion sensors and cameras(if requested) to help monitor those that may need extra supervision. While health care robots are starting to gain popularity, Ozer and others seemed a bit leery when using artificial intelligence to interact directly with residents.
“I don’t know how comfortable our dementia residents would be with something like a robot aide because it’s not in their long term memory. It’s something they aren’t really familiar with. Somebody born in the 1920s may not feel comfortable with a robot helping them get into the shower. Its all about trust with the caregiver,” said John Albanese, director of sales and marketing at Harmony Village. “Maybe the next generation will be comfortable with it. They’ve grown up with things like iPhones and computers. It’s more commonplace for them”
Albanese did not completely dismiss the idea of using robots. He feels robots making deliveries or serving food could be quite helpful. As far as interacting with residents, robots that resemble pets and even babies could be valuable in providing comfort.
“This is a population who is reverting back. For example, a woman who was a mother or a caregiver, they are soothed by things like holding and rocking a baby. So if the robot had the features of a real baby, it could beneficial to the resident” said Albanese.
CaringOnDemand Looking to Become the Uber of Home Health Aides
Caring People Inc. provides a wide range of home health care services in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Florida. The company is looking to better utilize caregivers time and revolutionize home care with their CaringOnDemand service.
The best way to describe it is as Uber for home health aides. A senior or their family can request local professional care-by-the-minute services with the press of a button. By using an app, they can schedule home services at any time.
The app will look at who’s the closest and best suited to help with the specific care request. Like Uber, the caregiver can accept that request and then go to the home. Once at the residence, they scan a code which reveals a plan of care (which is required by the Department of Health). When the session is done, a summary of the visit is provided which can be viewed on the app by the senior or their family. CaringOnDemand follows the same regulations as any normal home health care service.
Home Care by the Minute
Another benefit is charges are by the minute not the hour. For example, if a senior needs help with something simple like putting in a hearing aid or making a meal, the caregiver doesn’t need to hang around just to meet a minimum time requirement. This better utilizes the caregiver’s time along with keeping costs lower for the subscriber.
“What we’re finding is supply is being outstripped by demand in terms of labor. If our caregivers can spend say an hour in a house instead of the minimum four hours. He or she can take care of four patients in that same period of time” said Angela Fallon, regional VP of business development at Caring People Inc.
Keeping the Residents and Systems Running
Also attending the Dementia and Technology Expo was sipiQ and BrightBrainer. Fair Lawn, NJ based sipiQ provides a cloud-based telephone system. Unlike many other systems, sipiQ offers redundancy with backups in multiple locations. So if an ISP goes down, the system will still operate. For a place that provides healthcare services, it’s vital that communication systems be up and running at all times.
BrightBrainer provides adaptive video games that help improve cognitive and physical health. The self-contained games can adapt to a users skill level and past performance. They also work the body and mind at the same time helping to improve mobility and memory. Games like these have proven quite beneficial to those at assisted living facilities.