Many of the technologies that are now commonly found in the home were originally designed for business use. Home computers and the Internet are relatively sophisticated applications that were not initially intended for “at home” use. As the price and size of computers continues to decrease, they have become increasingly accessible to the home market. The same can be said of the health and personal care market. Products that were once the exclusive domain of hospitals and health care providers, such as automatic blood pressure monitors, are now turning up in our homes. This trend has been driven both by our desire to remain in our own homes as we age, and by government attempts to control rising healthcare costs in the face of demographic changes. By 2040 20% of the US population will be over the age of 65, a considerable increase from the 13% that the group makes up today . As the number of elderly remaining at home increases, so will the already growing demand for personal healthcare products.

An example of a product currently not sold to the home care market, but with great potential, is the Vigil? Dementia System. Part of a suite of products offered by Vigil Health Management, the system is a monitoring and care planning solution for long-term care facilities. With somewhere in the range of 50-75% of long-term care residents suffering from some form of cognitive disability, facilities can benefit greatly from a dementia specific solution.

Residents’ with dementia are often unable to call for help using a conventional nurse call system. Most residents do not make the connection between pushing a button and getting help. Similarly, dementia sufferers will often remove bracelets and other monitoring devices, as they find them a source of irritation.. Without the help of effective technology caregivers are required to round dementia sufferers’ rooms on a regular basis. During the elapsed time between checks, if a resident falls or is harmed they would have to wait some time for assistance. Not only is ’rounding’ somewhat ineffective, in so far as it may fail to provide timely assistance, it is also an invasion of the residents’ privacy and independence. Today’s leading care providers are designing facilities for the aged that are more home-like than institutional. They are striving for care models that are less intrusive and provide better quality care. These changing needs were the driving force behind the Vigil? Dementia System.

The combination of software and passive sensors, which include incontinence, bed-exit, and motion detectors, continually monitor residents’ rooms to detect unexpected behavior: extended time out of bed or in the restroom, leaving the room, even incontinence. This means that residents do not need to be cognitively alert in order to get help. Incidents are automatically reported to the appropriate caregiver through a silent pager. Not only does this provide care when and where it is needed, the vibrating pagers facilitate a calm home-like environment, eliminating the need for audible alarms or flashing lights that can agitate residents.

With the system constantly monitoring residents there is no need for caregivers to perform routine checks. The benefits at night are obvious. The system allows the resident to sleep peacefully but provides family members with the assurance that should their relative require assistance a caregiver will be paged.

Data from the Vigil? System is directed to a central computer where a record of all alarm activity, sensor activity and pages are recorded for further analysis. This allows management to track individual’s call patterns and therefore changes in each resident’s condition. In turn management is able to develop appropriate, proactive care plans.

The dominant disease in the over 65 population is Alzheimer’s, which affects one in ten people over age 65 and nearly half of those over 85. Currently 70% of Alzheimer’s sufferers live in their own home, and are cared for primarily by family members . As family caregivers face many of the same challenges as long-term care facilities, the Vigil? solution could provide benefits within an individual home.

Historically, dementia sufferers have remained in their own home until they either become a risk to themselves or their caregiver reaches a point of total exhaustion. By providing 24-hour monitoring Vigil’s technology would reduce the caregiver’s stress and workload, providing them with such basic benefits as sleep. Allowing a spouse or child to sleep peacefully knowing that they will be alerted if their loved one requires assistance improves their standard of life dramatically. As opposed to being a 24-hour guard, home caregivers will be able to interact with their relative on a personal level providing assistance only when it is required. Vigil’s reporting functions would allow family caregivers to track their relatives’ condition. The system would provide the information required to make the right decision should their loved one’s condition deteriorate to a level where they require professional care.

Vigil Health Management is currently working on developing a home-based version of the Vigil? Dementia System. An “at home” version would provide the same monitoring and care planning benefits as the facility version. With an increasing number of elderly requiring homecare, technology that improves the quality of the caregiver’s life as well as the standard of care will be increasingly important. Where as originally Vigil? sought to create a home-like environment in a facility, now it holds the key to allowing people to stay in their own homes longer.
Vigil Health Management Incorporated (VHM) is a privately held Canadian company providing healthcare services and products internationally.

VHM is committed to providing innovative technology through ongoing research and development, in-house system design, and extensive consultation with healthcare professionals and clients. The continuous input of caregivers and managers, who deal directly with the challenges of dementia care on a daily basis, has assisted VHM in developing an innovative hardware and software solution, the Vigil Integrated Care Management System?. Vigil? provides long-term care residents suffering from dementia with a means of summoning help without being cognitively alert.