I have written about how physical modifications to one’s home may permit aging in place longer and more safely. Another important factor in determining a person’s ability to remain in the home is caregiver support, Meals on Wheels, volunteer drivers, etc. Many are familiar with Lifeline, which provides 24/7 emergency help when the button is pushed, typically worn as a necklace or on the body somewhere in the event of a fall. Technological support systems such as Lifeline represent another tool to keep seniors home, but there is another system you may not be as familiar with.
eNeighbor was developed under the direction of the National Institute on Aging. The system, developed by Healthsense, is an “automated personal emergency response system.” You see, the problem with Lifeline is that it requires user activation. This is great IF the senior is alert and conscious, but what if they’re not?
The eNeighbor frequently asked questions brochure on the product states:
The eNeighbor system has an emergency call button, but in addition it uses small, wireless sensors placed throughout the residence to automatically call for help if the senior cannot. The eNeighbor system provides safe coverage of the entire residence 24 hours per day even if the senior cannot activate a call button. The eNeighbor system also provides valuable information on the health of the senior that call buttons alone cannot provide.
A variety of sensors are used together to determine the safety of the individual, and these sensors can and are placed on the toilet, beds, chairs, doors, refrigerators and motion sensors. The senior designates who should be contacted in the event the system goes off. The system also generates reports to determine changes in behavior, something that could be exceptionally beneficial to out-of-state kin trying to coordinate care. Particularly interesting is that the system is supposed to alert the senior or caregiver should he/she miss an event such as taking medications.
The system qualifies for medical reimbursement, and is reported to cost around $100 a month with a government subsidy. I cannot speak to the effectiveness of the system as I have never seen it installed or in use.
The problem with such advances in technology is that caregivers, doctors, and neighbors may become less engaged, more reliant on electronic assistance, which can never replace human interaction.