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Technology could help family members better care for loved ones with dementia

The federal government and the medical research community are going hi-tech to find new and better ways for caregivers to help their loved ones who suffer from dementia.

Studies show, the sheer time it takes for in-person observation and caring can be almost impossible to sustain. The caregivers are overburdened, which doesn’t help the people they are caring for.

A $10 million grant by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation

will explore the extent to which a variety of sensors can make a significant difference and allow for remote observations that tell caregivers what’s wrong, what’s right and whether action needs to be taken.

The technology, if proven successful, could also have a positive impact on the home health nursing industry, which, because of extraordinary demand, is seeking to become more efficient as well as more responsive.

According to an NPR story in June 2015, researchers with the University of California, San Francisco and the University of Nebraska Medical Center “will enroll 2,100 patients at the two sites. Each patient will have a navigator and a nonmedical staff person who will coordinate care and triage calls, so minor issues don’t land patients in the ER.

“Some patients,” the story says, “will also receive activity trackers and sensors, which will be placed around the house or worn on the patient’s wrist. The idea is to see whether sensors can detect when a patient is wandering off or if they’ve been inactive for too long.”

If the concept can be proven, both technically and extent to which caregivers and patients can adapt to them, sensors could soon help a family member measure glucose readings from afar, determine whether an oven burner has been on too long, and where in the house a loved one is at any given time.

Doctors say anything that helps those with certain degrees of dementia get care at home can stabilize or improve overall health, decrease hospitalizations, and delay the necessity of a nursing home or more advanced care. It can also greatly reduce the anxiety of caregivers.

Stay tuned for the results of the study in early 2016.

Nurse Care NC is a premium health care services company, providing in-home care and medical staffing needs to the Central and Eastern North Carolina communities.