How cloud-based monitoring is facilitating change for seniors
by Geoff Gross

Before the dawn of the digital era, caring for aging parents was a complicated undertaking that often strained the lives of adult children or caregivers and the parent. Tremendous progress has been made in recent decades to alleviate many stressors that accompany entering retirement and beyond. Technological advances have eliminated barriers such as distance and time. Cloud-based monitoring systems have completely transformed the caregiving process, giving seniors and their loved ones the freedom to live independently and without worry. Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) have existed at the forefront of homecare for years, but it is only within the past decade that major strides have been made. mHealth technologies are seeing breakthroughs at a rapid pace. As PERS technology evolves, so do the lives of seniors and caregivers.

Technology and Aging

Thirty years ago, late-night infomercials targeted seniors with advertisements featuring actors in distress, emphasizing a medical alert device as the savior. The simplicity of a one-push rescue button was a revolutionary idea and remains a staple in the PERS industry. However, since the advent of the emergency response button, technology has transformed—and so have the needs of seniors. As baby boomers settle into retirement, they may find themselves in need of assistance in the activities of daily living, such as reminders to take medication or to eat regular meals. Ten years ago, the only solutions to receive assistance with these daily needs would be paid long-term care or to live with an adult child. In 2016, a third option exists. A cloud-based monitoring system in the home of a senior allows caregivers and loved ones to remotely check in on the daily activities of seniors. Motion sensors and cloud-based camera systems deliver real-time insights directly to a computer or mobile device. Cloud-based technology brings a new realm of freedom that was previously unavailable. Cloud-based monitoring systems have changed the way seniors age. Seniors are able to remain independent far longer than in decades past. Aging baby boomers will be able to stay in their homes and lead the independent lifestyles they desire while still giving peace of mind to adult children—even from across the country. Moreover, cloud-based monitoring systems are available at nearly every price range, making freedom accessible to everyone.

Technology and Caregiving

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Policy, up to 7 million people—family, friends and neighbors—provide care to a senior in need of day-to-day assistance. The caregiver’s dilemma comes when round-the-clock care is unrealistic or impossible. Modernized PERS systems provide a stable lifeline to caregivers when they are unable to be with their senior face-to-face. Mobile PERS units were the beginning of the revolution. The devices allowed seniors to carry on with day-to-day activities out of the house and around town, while giving caregivers a sense of security. In a short amount of time, technology rapidly advanced to bring visual monitoring to life. Now, mPERS has become an entirely cloud-based system that gives caregivers real-time data on the activities of their senior family members. Cloud-based communication gives caregivers the ability to proactively monitor a senior’s activity, which in turn is linked to fewer in-home emergencies and trips to the physician. Not only are there significant cost savings associated with the new age of monitoring, but also seniors are safer and caregivers feel more at ease. Unlike other mobile communication devices, mPERS devices and their accompanying cloud-based monitoring systems are easily integrated with existing technology. Most are compatible with standing packages and can easily adapt to landline or cellular base stations. With the introduction of apps and mobile push notifications, caregivers can roam as needed without feeling detached from their senior. Safety monitoring is truly available at the touch of a button. Modern cloud-based monitoring systems exist with many layers. Video monitoring, motion sensing and text message notifications work together to give a complete view of daily activity. Caregivers can now check in with seniors from their mobile devices to monitor for specific events; for example if a senior has opened the refrigerator or left the front door open. Cloud-based monitoring systems have given caregivers across the country a sense of security.

In the Future

Life expectancy is longer than ever before, and as medicine and health care continue to improve, the baby boomer generation should anticipate record-breaking lifespans. Independence and safety are two valuable needs. However, until the technological advances of mPERS and cloud-based monitoring systems, independence and safety were considered mutually exclusive. The future of PERS will see even greater independence and quality of life for seniors and their caregivers. Real-time insight in light of daily activity and medical emergencies will provide confidence for every aging adult. Another emerging trend to anticipate in the future of cloud-based monitoring is remote medical care and services through telehealth. Telehealth allows seniors to electronically fill drug prescriptions and gives caregivers the ability to check health vitals remotely. Just as mobile phones have become extensions of the human experience, PERS and its related capabilities, including cloud-based monitoring and telehealth, will be natural progressions in the human lifecycle. Each breakthrough in technology provides additional convenience and improved experience for seniors and their loved ones.