Healthsense, LoJack, Omnilink: Wireless help for Alzheimer's

By Brian Dolan

Healthsense's eNeighbor remote monitoring system aims to help those taking care of friends and family with Alzheimer's disease or dementia. Developed with grants from the National Institutes of Aging (NIA) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Healthsense's eNeighbor system is based on battery-operated WiFi sensors that include pressure sensors in beds to detect when a resident gets in or out of bed; motion detectors on walls to detect movement or inactivity; toilet sensors to monitor toilet usage; contact sensors on kitchen cupboards and refrigerator doors to monitor whether the resident is eating regularly; and door sensors that alert when the resident tries to leave the residence or enter potentially hazardous areas, such as stairways. The monitoring system then uses algorithms to analyze the sensor data and figure out whether or not the resident needs assistance. eNeighbor will send out assistive prompts or alerts via any phone when help is needed and information and reports can also be viewed from a secure online portal.

The Alzheimer's Association estimates that 5.3 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, but as the baby boomer population ages the number of Americans with Alzheimer's is expected to hit 7.7 million in 2030. The Alzheimer's Association estimates that currently some 10 million people, which includes family members, provide unpaid care for Alzheimer's patients.

A couple of companies are offering competitive or complementary offerings to Healthsense's eNeighbor:

Omnilink - Omnilink's wireless tracking service for Alzheimer's patients is running on a Qualcomm-powered handset. Nearly 70 percent of individuals with Alzheimer's that wander will do so repeatedly, and of those not found within 24 hours, up to half suffer serious injury or death. Omnilink enables caregivers to keep tabs on their patients with a location-based services tracking application.

LoJack is not just for cars anymore. The wireless device maker that is known for helping cops find stolen cars announced the launch of LoJack SafetyNet back in February, a tracking system aimed at the more than 5.2 million American Alzheimer's patients who may wander off and have trouble finding their way back home again. SafetyNet leverages LoJack's Radio Frequency technology, which is what its Stolen Vehicle Recovery System is based on. LoJack said the service is geared toward those with autism, Down syndrome, dementia and other conditions, too. The company is also working with Project Lifesaver International to promote and support the service.

According to the Healthsense press release: "Adrienne Briggs, a Philadelphia resident whose 70-year-old mother came to live with her two years ago after she was diagnosed with dementia, began using the eNeighbor system 20 months ago. In addition to bed, motion and door sensors, her system is also set up to alert her if her mother does not return to bed at night within 10 minutes after getting up to use the bathroom. 'The eNeighbor technology has definitely helped keep my mom out of a nursing home, and it has given me peace of mind, knowing that she is being monitored at night when I'm asleep,' said Briggs. 'Before, I was never really able to go into a deep sleep, because I would always be listening out for her.'"

For more on eNeighbor, read this company press release

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