Background: Falling occurs commonly over the age of 65, resulting in 2.8 million injuries treated by emergency departments, including over 800,000 hospitalizations and leads to more than 27,000 deaths annually. Most falls occur at night on bathroom breaks, but are completely preventable by timely intervention of a caregiver. In assisted living environments, staff to resident ratio ranges from 1:10 to 1:20 challenging availability of caregivers to provide critically needed preventive assistance in time. Our proposed device, “ElderHelp” may prevent your grandparent from death caused by a serious and painful injury.
Device Description: ElderHelp is a standalone microprocessor-based system that informs caregivers of context when a nursing home resident needs assistance. ElderHelp responds to a resident’s voice by texting a real-time photograph of the resident inside their apartment and a message directly to the responsible caregiver who may be performing other duties. This enables care staff to better manage their time by directly informing them of the resident’s exact need and urgency for attention. Unlike in hospital rooms, automated intercom services are not typically present in assisted-living environments. Pushbutton call systems on a neck chain don’t work well for people with poor hearing or other physical impairments. For families attempting care at home, household chores become impossible without being at the side of the needy family member. Unlike infant care, continuous video monitoring of adults invades privacy.
Innovation: ElderHelp recognizes specific sounds to initiate real-time image-capture and texting to selected caregivers into a wireless standalone device system. Recent semiconductor advances enables recognition of selected speech and real-time image communication. ElderHelp users own their device without monthly fees using internet connectivity provided though a pay-for-data hotspot. Competing alarm systems don’t differentiate a request for support for a bathroom break and an emergency medical situation. The ElderHelp private, portable and dedicated communication system provides a novel method for caregivers to triage responsibilities while providing timely personal care.
Manufacturability: The electronic hardware components of ElderHelp are commercially available from robust supply chains. Software and integrated system design are custom products of ElderHelp, but will be offered open source for community engineering improvements. Complete systems will be assembled in economically disadvantaged communities to foster local employment. The developers of Elderhelp will provide quality systems management, custom printed circuit boards and technical direction to start-up franchise businesses interested in fabricating and distributing ElderHelp.
Marketability: Personalized elder care in the United States costs too much for average Americans, costing from $80k to over $200K per year. Inefficient use of caregivers’ time when caring for multiple persons drives up cost. An Elderhelp system to monitor a small apartment will require approximately $200 to manufacture and retail for approximately $250-400.00. This means that more elderly persons may be allowed to remain in independent living environments without 24 hour supervision. Caregivers become available more immediately and as needed. The primary market will be to individuals and retirement communities with residents who wish to remain in their own home rather than move to assisted living environments.