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Care Homes

As our population ages, hospitals and care homes face increasing administrative and staffing challenges, and while there is an emphasis at the moment on decentralising healthcare—on encouraging more people to look after their own relatives from home—this is not always feasible, especially when those relatives require surveillance or regular medical intervention. But a lot of technology that helps with remote care can also be used in care homes, and a lot of the challenges of care home administration highlight the usefulness of IoT technology.

It is quite common now for elderly people to be issued with some kind of fall detector. These devices (usually worn as bracelets or necklaces) use accelerometers to differentiate between regular activity and sudden falls, triggering an alert to designated family members or social workers to come and help. Often the technology is marketed as a way of encouraging independent living, or home care, and there can be no doubt that in these situations the technology would offer peace of mind. But the use case is obvious in care homes as well, as part of an overall digital infrastructure design, especially in cases where there are more residents than staff: it targets and locates those in need of help, and reduces the amount of time spent in pain or distress. For residents with heart conditions, time thus saved could be especially valuable.

Another common IoT use case involves reminding residents themselves when they should take medication, how much they should take, and so on. This reduces the risk of overdose or (in some cases just as serious) underdose. It also reduces dependence on paper and means that alterations in medication or dosage or timing can be made immediately, remotely, and just once. Sensors can also ensure that medication has been taken, and likewise food and drink, allowing healthcare workers to log data and perform data analysis on trends in biometrics – vital signs like heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen – rather as we are used to seeing in building performance.

Building performance measurements are also of considerable importance here, of course. Care homes build on digitally enhanced infrastructure can ensure with greater accuracy that the correct parameters are being met for optimum health and wellbeing of residents. Individual preferences or requirements can be facilitated through the generation of microclimates (see Dartex Micro Climate): for example, certain respiratory conditions may benefit from alterations to the air temperature or humidity, and this can be altered in communal areas as well as individual rooms.  Our wellness metric can be applied more generally to determine whether air quality, temperature, humidity, and light all meet the desired criteria for resident health and wellness.

In other words, the insights that are available through digitally enhanced infrastructure are more than skin deep; the proper care for elderly occupants can only be ensured when environmental parameters are taken care of automatically, freeing up time for healthcare workers to spend with the people in their care. If this can improve the daily experience of living and working in a care home, it will be worth a lot more than the capital investment.

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