How Wearable Devices Help Seniors Stay Safe at Home

March 12th, 2018

By: Sharon Roth Maguire, MS, RN, GNP-BC, Chief Clinical Quality Officer, BrightStar Care

Popularity of wearable devices, such as Fitbits and Apple Watches, has increased significantly in recent years, and that trend shows no sign of slowing. According to International Data Corporation, an industry analysis group, the wearables market is expected to nearly double in size by 2021.
 
Today’s wearable devices do so much more than count the number of steps a person takes. They’re more like mini-computers that can provide a wealth of valuable data for your healthcare team. Some wearables even offer another layer of security for your loved one when they’re home alone.

How Wearable Devices Support Healthcare Goals

Most of us barely scratch the surface of what wearable technology can tell us about ourselves. The range of wellness information many wearables track can help caregivers find opportunities to protect and improve their loved one’s health. Many wearables can track:

  • Calories burned
  • Distance traveled
  • Floors climbed
  • Heart rate achieved
  • Hours slept
  • Time spent exercising 

You and your loved one can use this information to adjust their daily routine. For example, studies have found that healthy seniors should get 7,000 to 10,000 steps per day. If your loved one isn’t hitting this mark, you could discuss building in more time for exercise, such as short walks around the neighborhood or visiting a nearby walking trail or shopping center.
 
The information gathered from wearable technology also can be of great value to your loved one’s care team. For example, if their device shows they’re not getting enough sleep, their doctor might consider testing for sleep apnea or other sleep disorders. You can share the information with their BrightStar Care nurse, print reports from the device and bring them to appointments, or email the information to their doctor’s office.
 
There’s even a growing market for wearable technology geared specifically toward diabetes care. Special diabetic socks can track temperature changes on the bottoms of your loved one’s feet, which can indicate the presence of a foot injury or ulcer. In addition, a company named PKvitality is developing a smartwatch that can track blood sugar levels without the need for a blood test. While BrightStar Care has not yet used or endorsed these specific products, it is exciting to think of the difference innovations like these could make to help seniors avoid serious diabetes complications and help you feel more confident about your loved one’s health and safety.

How Devices Keep Seniors Safe at Home

Falls are a major concern for seniors, particularly those who live alone. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports, more than 25 percent of older adults fall each year. Falls account for more than 800,000 hospitalizations per year. They’re the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries, and they cause 95 percent of all hip fractures.
 
Related reading: 7 Ways You Can Help Your Loved One After a Fall
 
Seniors who fall while they’re alone may not be able to reach a phone to call for help. Many wearable devices, worn on a necklace or bracelet, include buttons seniors can press to summon emergency aid. Others feature accelerometers that can detect a fall so the device can call for help automatically. These devices don’t replace 24-hour care or other in-home care options, but they can add an extra layer of security and make it possible for more older adults to live at home for longer. Many home-based medical alert services offer discounts on their monthly fees to members of AARP or other organizations for seniors.
 
Of course, falls aren’t the only risk aging adults can face when they live at home. Seniors also can use wearable devices to call for help in other medical emergencies, such as a heart attack. In addition, Life Alert offers home-intrusion protection and can monitor smoke and carbon monoxide levels in your loved one’s home. These systems often include cellular connections and GPS monitoring as available options, so seniors don’t need to be home to call for help, and so first responders can locate them wherever they might have an emergency.
 
When you sign your loved one up for a medical alert service, you’ll designate a list of emergency contacts. Ask your local BrightStar Care agency about their policies for being listed as your loved one’s first or second contact in non-emergency situations. This especially can be helpful if you live in a different city or state, since our providers will be able to respond much faster than you could to check in.
 
It’s natural for older adults to want to live at home and maintain their independence. When you incorporate wearable devices into their fitness routines and daily life, both you and your loved one can gain much-needed peace of mind.
 
Call 866-618-7827 or contact a BrightStar Care home care agency near you for more information on our in-home care services for your loved one.