Understanding the challenges that put a strain on staff in senior homes and assisted living apartments is the first step towards creating a more efficient environment that will benefit both staff and senior residents.
Impact of cognitive decline
According to Soini and Välimäki in their paper about elderly care in Finland, one of the greatest challenges faced by care staff is the naturally declining mental and physical health of residents which limits their ability to be self-sufficient. It was found that the best solutions for these problems were regular nursing interventions such as memory tests, evaluations of the clients’ abilities to wash and dress themselves, and encouragement of the clients to use their existing capacities. Having a simple and efficient means of monitoring and recording such activities would prove beneficial in ensuring that the resident is given the required care.
Chronic disease management
A plethora of chronic diseases are prevalent in elderly care facilities. With each resident’s unique situation, they may require their own individualised treatment plan comprising various medications and other treatments. The challenge for staff in senior homes and residences is to maintain all the diseases and medications in equilibrium. Even the slightest change, such as a disease acting up, can have an adverse effect on other aspects of the individual’s health resulting in an emergency department visit, hospitalization, or readmission.
According to the WHO in the publication ‘Assessing Chronic Disease Management in European Health Systems,’ there are four components considered key to providing high-quality care for those with chronic health problems. These components are:
- Offering Self-management Support, where the residents themselves are empowered and prepared to manage their own health care, giving them a certain degree of independence and confidence
- Providing care staff with the right tools for Decision Support to promote care that is consistent with scientific data as well as the patients’ preferences in scenarios where there is more than one possible treatment path
- The use of smarter Clinical Information Systems that utilise technology in order to organize data and facilitate efficient and effective care
- Utilising Delivery System Design to ensure that regular, proactive planned visits which incorporate patient goals help residents maintain optimal health and allow the care facility to better manage and share resources especially when one resident requires the attention of multiple doctors, specialists, and staff members. It is important to note that facilitating communication amongst care-givers, and closing the gap in the relationship between patients and their physicians.
Collaboration amongst physicians with a uniform platform
Many care givers seem to struggle with a lack of available communication channels, leading to treatment plans that may be more specific to certain issues and not catered to the holistic care of the individual. One of the most effective sources of assistance to staff in residences and senior homes has proven to be managerial supervision and collaboration with co-workers. Being able to consult with fellow physicians for a second opinion, or simply having the option to call for backup when dealing with a particularly difficult case could alleviate a lot of the pressure faced by care-staff in tough situations.
Lack of data and analytics
There is a notable scarcity when it comes to actionable and easily understood health data, making it harder for staff to clearly and accurately articulate the details of their residents’ health care profiles. This, in turn, means that it is even more challenging to gauge how these characteristics compare to other communities within the area or assisted living corporation.
Challenges in long-term care in Europe, a study of national policies conducted in 2018, concluded that due to the informal nature of most long term care services, and an absence
of EU agreed outcome indicators, there is very little reasonably comparable data on which to base future analysis.
Having systems in place that could monitor residents and keep easy-to-understand records of key metrics, will prove beneficial not only for statistical purposes but also for the health of elderly residents who can effortlessly and unobtrusively be monitored for any anomalies by health care workers.
Critical injuries from falls
Falls are a serious threat to elderly residents in care facilities, especially when considering that in the EU 1.4 million people from fall-related injuries are admitted to hospital each year, with 36,000 individuals sustaining fatal injuries. This is even more concerning when taking into consideration that the effects of such a fall could be permanent, especially if the person has been on the floor for an extended period of time due to not being able to get up or call for help. Lying on the floor for more than 12 hours is associated with pressure sores, dehydration, hypothermia, pneumonia, and ultimately with higher mortality rates. In fact, a study in the Netherlands estimated that the average medical and social care costs for a fall-related injury to be 9,370 EUR per case, leaving lasting damage which causes a significant strain on assisted living institutions. In nursing homes, 70% of falls occur when patients are alone in their rooms. Having systems such as Watcherr in place that instantly alerts care staff when a resident falls over will dramatically reduce the time spent on the floor, resulting in a higher chance of recovery.
How can Watcherr help to alleviate these difficulties?
Watcherr is a unique health wearable system that uses advanced algorithms, data analytics, Artificial Intelligence and deep machine learning to gather key data such as deviations in heart rate, irregular sleeping patterns, urinary and gastroenterological problems and many more. This data is then represented through the Watcherr Mobile App and the Watcherr Web App in a way that is easily understood by caregivers and physicians who can use it to create an individualised care plan. The unobtrusive device also functions as a nurse call distress system with indoor and outdoor location tracking, alerting staff at care facilities of any critical situations including falls and wandering. This ensures that residents who encounter any form of difficulties will be assisted in a timely manner.
Some statements are subject to clinical trials and are not commercially available yet. We are demonstrating our systems on 26-27-28 April 2022 via the Inspire Healthcare (Flanders Expo Gent) event.