Carnegie Mellon University researchers in the Quality of Life Technology Center (QoLTC) recently announced a study that will embed wireless sensors in the residences of about 50 older adults who live alone to see if they can detect subtle changes in everyday activities that indicate the onset of dementia or physical infirmities. The project hopes to demonstrate that simple, unobtrusive sensors in residences can alert medical professionals when a person begins to lose physical or mental abilities.
The research team is one of five nationwide selected by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to explore how observations of daily living (ODLs) — what people eat, how they sleep, their mood, how their medications makes them feel and other factors — can be captured, interpreted and integrated into clinical care. Each team is receiving a $480,000 grant for the two-year project. Project teams will then work with patients with complex chronic conditions to capture and interpret ODLs while establishing a relationship with a physician practice to share information. Over the 12 months, clinicians will care for 30-50 patients who are actively monitoring ODLs and assess the value of including the ODLs in their real-world care processes.
In addition, the program provides legal and regulatory compliance support to grantees and contributes to the public discourse on the legal and regulatory aspects of capturing ODLs and integrating them into care processes. The program will develop resources around the cross-cutting issues regarding use and safe integrations of ODLs as well as specifically advise grantee teams on applicable law and regulations that may alter the consequences of data-sharing between patients and clinicians.
"The loss of the ability to make a sandwich, dial a phone, or take medications correctly often occurs gradually and, particularly for people who live alone, insidiously," said Anind Dey, associate professor in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII) of Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science. "If we can identify this decline at an early stage, we have a chance to halt and even reverse deterioration that might otherwise result in an unsafe living situation and ultimately require the person to be institutionalized."