Technology plays an important role in the aged care industry, but is particularly valuable in memory care settings. From supporting cognitive function to increasing resident safety, technology helps support better resident care.
Unique applications of technology in memory care settings
Many memory care units and organizations are already using the technology to support their residents. Amanda Runnoe, vice president of clinical and quality operations at Heritage Senior Living in Wisconsin, explains that the organization uses technology in several ways.
The MapHabitProgram is an interactive and practical care management program that uses a patented visual mapping system. That system is paired with smart devices and mental exercises that help improve the resident’s cognition and strengthen routine habits.
Heritage Senior Living also uses Dele Health Tech, a real-time fall management system. The system is equipped with sensors and artificial intelligence placed throughout the room or living space of a resident.
The organization also installed TrueLoo, a smart toilet that provides staff with data on a resident’s health and well-being. Staff are able to detect emerging health problems and act promptly, based on the trends of individual residents.
“The technologies we implemented were born out of our desire to further improve systems and solve problems,” explains Runnoe. “For example, we have identified that residents with cognitive disabilities often do not seek assistance after suffering a fall. We have explored fall prevention systems and found decent fall prevention technology that offers sensor technology to notify service teams of fall events in real time. “
Runnoe explains that technology systems have helped improve home care. She notes that thanks to technology, care teams can quickly access the details on allergies, medical diagnoses, drug orders and the level of care they need for each resident’s daily activities. “Having this information easily accessible is critical to providing the best care for residents.”
He also notes that technology has enabled Heritage Senior Living to establish standards of care and processes at its 15 Wisconsin locations. “It has enabled us to monitor quality indicators and implement systems to improve clinical outcomes for our residents,” she says. “It has also improved communication between employees, residents and families.”
Andrew Carle, adjunct lecturer and principal instructor for Senior Life Administration undergraduate curricula at Georgetown University, is also nationally recognized for his work in senior life. Carle coined the term “Nan Technology ™” to describe microchip-based technology that is designed, intended or can be used to improve the quality of life of older people. Carle was one of Shenandoah’s principal designers at The Virginian, a one-of-a-kind elderly memory care community in Fairfax, Virginia.
In identifying the technology to include in Shenandoah, Carle focused on how that technology could improve the quality of life of the elderly. With 25 years of experience designing memory care facilities, Carle selected technology that fell into three categories: improved safety, increased resident engagement, and improved overall health and well-being.
To support health and well-being, Carle chose an advanced circadian lighting system that mimics natural sunlight throughout the day. The system is programmed, so it can be set up to simulate light patterns in any time zone or place. Memory care residents may experience sunset and lose track of time, but circadian lighting can help restore their biorhythms. The system in the sensory room also offers the possibility to change the colors of the light to promote different moods, such as a calm or more relaxed appearance.
A fall management platform called SafelyYou helps ensure the safety of residents. The system includes a camera installed in the corner of each resident’s apartment and captures falls. Only falls are recorded; all other data is immediately deleted. As a result, staff can view the video of a fall in seconds and see what really happened, including what caused the fall. Staff can better assess the severity of a fall, determine if a resident should go to the emergency room, and take appropriate corrective measures to prevent future falls.
Shenandoah has multiple technology systems to support resident engagement. Obie, a manual movement game system used in Europe, was introduced in the United States about a year ago. “We were one of the first communities in the United States to have it,” says Carle. The system is easy to use and residents can play by simply waving their hands. The system tracks data so staff can monitor which games each resident likes to play, how long they play, and any changes in response times that could indicate a health problem.
The community also uses SingFit Prime, a singing app created by music therapists. The app combines singing, movement and reminiscence. “It’s very engaging,” says Carle. “Every song has a purpose and a reason, and it incorporates movement or curiosity.”
LifeBio, an agetech company, helps capture the life story of every resident. This evidence-based app asks specific and guided questions via an online portal. Residents and their adult children can be interviewed, and the app’s AI technology transcribes those voice interviews. The platform can also record residents’ voices and archive photos of their lives.
The results are threefold. The platform produces a modified life story book that can be printed, so that family members or residents can have their own copies of the book. The book includes the pictures that were posted and details the resident’s life story. The platform also creates a one-page snapshot of each resident, as well as an action plan document that healthcare professionals can use to learn more about the resident’s background.
Best practices for introducing new technologies into organizations
In choosing the technology, Carle emphasizes the importance of using evidence-based products with proven effects. “Don’t get caught up in all the bells and whistles, or things that look nice but don’t have real science behind them,” he recommends. He also suggests looking primarily at technology that strongly addresses safety, engagement or health and wellbeing.
Runnoe points out that introducing change, whether it’s technology or not, can be difficult. “Some people are resistant to change and prefer the comfort of familiar tools and processes,” she says. “We have learned that it is important to involve teams as early as possible to help them understand the intent and purpose of the technology. Early involvement can help build employee consensus. “