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Nursing homes that embed sensor and radio frequency identification technologies in everyday items like carpeting and ID bracelets could speed assistance to residents while preventing falls and other bad outcomes. Researchers and providers in the United Kingdom (UK) and Germany are now testing 2 such systems.
Plastic optical fibers embedded in ordinary carpeting may be the key to preventing falls in older people, according to researchers at the UK’s University of Manchester. The fibers fit into the carpet’s pad and bend when an older person steps on them. That pressure sends a signal to a computer screen so researchers can map walking patterns in real time. A university video illustrates how footprint images appear on the computer screen when a volunteer takes ordinary steps or simulates a fall and a loss of balance. Analyzing these footprint images could help caregivers identify gradual changes in walking behavior that might predict a fall. The images could also inform observers of a sudden fall or trip, according to Medical News Today. Smart carpets may soon cover the floors of nursing homes, hospitals or private homes. But carpeting may just be one of many potential hosts for the optical fibers, say researchers. Those fibers could gather a host of data about a person's health and functional abilities if they were embedded in mattresses, furniture or bathroom walls. In addition to keeping track of mobility, the fibers could also sense changes in bodily fluids, according to HuffPost Tech. Researchers say the imaging technology is so versatile it could even be adapted to detect the presence of chemical spills or serve as an early-warning system for fires.
The Haus Désirée nursing home in Germany is using a real-time location system (RTLS) to help employees keep track of residents as they move around the facility. The Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) system consists of 3 major components:Wi-Fi-based RFID wristbands and badges: Each resident wears a waterproof wrist or ankle band with an RFID tag that transmits its unique identification number at regular intervals. The bracelet features a call button that residents can press if they need assistance. In addition, facilities can program the RTLS system to alert staff members when a wandering resident approaches an exit or enters a room that is off limits.Each care provider in the nursing home wears a lanyard featuring an RFID tag and a screen that displays text messages. When a resident needs help, the RTLS system sends the nearest staff member an alert and a text message identifying the resident and his or her location. Infrared (IR) beacons and Wi-Fi nodes: Haus Désirée installed 75 IR beacons that continually transmit their own unique identification number. When a passing wristband receives an IR signal, it uses one of the building’s 20 Wi-Fi nodes to forward the beacon’s ID, along with its own identifier, to the system’s software. This allows the RTLS system to track wearers as they move throughout the facility. Back-end software: Several interdependent software programs help the RTLS system work. Positioning engine software receives data from residents and staff. That data is then forwarded to the Patient Location Guard (PLG) software, which sends alerts to staff members.