The Tecnalia Centre for Applied Research has created a system of sensors which when fitted in a home can monitor changes in a person's habits and routine. These observations can then be used to assess whether an individual is suffering from the early stages of a neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer's.
The aim of the project is to improve the quality of life for elderly patients, by installing these sensors in either the care homes or supervised apartments of the patients. The prototype, which has been in development for three years, is currently installed on the premises of Tecnalia in Zamudio, Bizkaia, Spain.
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In an increasingly aging global population, the Spanish Institute for the Elderly and Social Services (Imserso), found that 70 percent of people over the age of 70 would rather live in their own homes than move to a care home. Therefore, systems such as this could allow elderly people to remain in their own homes whilst receiving a higher standard of care.
How does the system work?The sensors, once distributed around the house, have the capacity to identify a range of user-initiated actions. These include, but are not limited to, detecting which room a person is in, the opening and closing of doors, time spent watching television, and the switching on and off of lights and other household appliances.
The monitoring of these actions over time allows the sensors to define habitual patterns preferred by the user. Due to the fact that the early stages of a degenerative disease such as Alzheimer's are often manifested by behavioral changes in the patient, the sensors can assess the possibility that the user is suffering the early stages of such a disease by monitoring significant deviations from past behavioral patterns.
Such a deviation could take the form of increased isolation, changes in sleep patterns, disorientation, or perhaps a combination of factors indicating a loss of short term memory.
There is also the potential for the system to assist the patient in everyday situations, such as informing them when they should take their medication. The constant observation afforded by the system will hopefully allow diseases such as Alzheimer's to be caught in the early stages, making it possible for the individual to be treated from the outset and thus delaying cognitive deterioration and increasing the patient's quality of life.