Technology and Aging in Place, Part 2: Keep it Simple

Filed in Business Management, Education, Remodeling by on June 28, 2018 0 Comments

abstract connections of lines and spheresIn Part 1, we looked at the basics of outfitting a home for an elder relative.

The cost of caring for an aging relative can be daunting. As Ric Johnson, CAPS, of Ohio’s Right at Home Technologies notes, “Our experience shows that nursing care runs around $7,250 per month for full service. That includes three meals, snacks, onsite nursing. Alzheimer’s nursing care can start at $9,300 or more per month at a specialized facility.”

Renovating an existing home or adding a room or suite of rooms to a home for an aging relative has benefits beyond monthly savings, Johnson said. “Providing upgrades so that an Alzheimer’s patient can stay in a familiar location — and around family members — not only reduces overall cost, but also slows the progression slightly, allowing for a better quality of life.”

Johnson’s bona fides include the NAHB Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) professional designation. “CAPS provides builders, designers, technologists, nurses and others the necessary background to provide for this growing market,” he said.

Anyone who carries this designation into a new home or remodeling project will have a handle on the details: As Johnson noted, the builder needs to coordinate closely with the electrical contractor and technologist, because additional dedicated 20 amp circuits are needed for sensors and other devices.

Additionally, Johnson said, “In some jurisdictions, hospital-grade equipment is used in the patient’s bedroom. A very secure network is required, in many cases separate from the house’s internet connection, to allow transfer of data between the patient portal and the attending medical staff.”

Safety and Simplicity

As with an audio/video installation, a properly ventilated equipment rack tucked away in its own lockable closet is often a must.

Other considerations: Dedicated wiring space in bathrooms (away from water and plumbing), light switches placed lower on the walls, and receptacle outlets in higher-than-usual locations to make everything easily accessible for a user with limited mobility.

“Because we require pressure sensors on the floor and RFID readers embedded in wall locations near the baseboard, additional shielding is necessary to protect the wiring from trim nails and the like,” Johnson said.

Technology integrators know the proper cabling techniques to ensure that signal interference is eliminated.

But how does one overcome “technology phobia” — how does an integrator make these systems easy to use for both the aging individual and their loved ones?

“First, most of the equipment we provide is hidden and works without additional touch, much like a security system — but in our case, without the arming and disarming functions,” Johnson said. “Our equipment reports activity or lack thereof. Lighting comes on and off automatically, following the natural progression of the day with additional sensors that keep lights on during times of darkness due to storms or clouds, by using photocells to override programing at those times.

“Yes, we have touchscreens and keypads, but they are normally used by caregivers for particular reasons. Most of the ‘technology’ is already familiar to the user, such as messaging or emailing alerts, warning lights, and so on.”

This NAHBNow guest post is from Ed Wenck, content marketing manager for CEDIA, the industry association where you can find local professionals who design and integrate technology for the connected home.

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