Thursday, May 23, 2024

Wearable Device Supports Residents, Staff in Seniors’ Homes, Assists with Contact Tracing

Stewart Hardie has seen firsthand how devastating the effects of a fall can be for an older person. A few years ago, his grandmother fell, broke her hip and died of complications. Later, his stepmother had three falls in a month, requiring hospitalization each time. And in 2020, Hardie’s father, who lives in a seniors’ residence, fell and was trapped for three hours between his nightstand and bed before being found. 

“It’s a very personal thing for me and I don’t think my story is unusual,” Hardie says. “That was my motivation to find a technological solution.” 

Hardie’s innovative solution is a platform called Tenera Care that allows staff in seniors’ facilities to track people’s movements. Residents, staff and visitors wear wristbands or clip-on devices that pinpoint their location in real time within 15 centimeters. The system can “see” people moving around and give notifications if someone needs assistance. 

“In all three of my family members’ cases, the staff would instantly know to go and provide assistance. They could actually see on a map if my father is stuck or if he’s moving around,” Hardie explains. 

It’s not only about fall detection. The cloud-based system alerts staff if someone goes into the wrong room, gets out of bed at night, or is using the bathroom more often, which can indicate a possible infection. Data can be used by staff to formulate individual care plans, and shared with family members. 

“We provide objective data of what’s actually going on in residents’ lives and how the trends are changing. Are their steps declining, how much time are they spending in their room, are they sleeping more or less,” says Hardie, CEO and founder of Tenera Care, which developed the system.

Contact-tracing capabilities

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the system can also be used for contact tracing if a staff member, visitor or resident is diagnosed with COVID-19. “At the push of a button we can tell you who they came in contact with, at what distance, how much time they spent together, and where they were,” Hardie says, “so you can more easily control the spread of COVID-19 by understanding who needs to be quarantined.”

Based in Halifax, Tenera Care is rapidly building a client base. Shannex Incorporated, which provides seniors accommodation, is now testing the platform in four Nova Scotia facilities. And Hardie has recently opened a U.S. office, with plans to expand across North America. 

AGE-WELL, Canada’s technology and aging network, has supported Tenera Care by connecting the company to others in the sector. A new collaboration with AGE-WELL researchers could open the door to other ways of using the platform to improve the health and wellbeing of long-term care residents. 

The company has also made valuable connections attending AGE-WELL conferences. “AGE-WELL has given us those opportunities so we’re very grateful,” Hardie says. “I’m looking forward to working together even more closely.”

Hardie’s main goal is to improve the quality of life of residents while preserving their dignity. One of his most gratifying moments came on a recent visit to a seniors’ residence that is using his platform. He spoke with a resident in her mid-nineties. “She said, ‘I’ve always lived in fear of being forgotten. And now I don’t have that any longer. I feel so much better.’ So that, to me, is a very powerful statement that we’re providing a sense of comfort.”

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