A Spanish research centre has developed an innovative new way to detect symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases like dementia.
The researchers have designed a ‘smart home’, which is intended to detect early signs of the disease.
The prototype of the system has been fitted on the premises of Tecnalia in Bizkaia, Basque Country.
It is hoped that the system can be rolled out across care homes for the elderly and in supervised flats, improving patient care and quality of life.
The technology consists of a vast network of sensors throughout the house, and, if it were put into effect on a large-scale basis, could dramatically increase the independence of elderly people.
Tecnalia, a leading research centre based in Spain’s Basque Country, has spent three years developing the sensory technology.
With over 70% of Spanish pensioners saying they would prefer to live in their own homes rather than in a retirement home, the research could prove invaluable.
The system works by monitoring the movements of the inhabitants and alerting a carer or family member if it detects signs of a neurodegenerative disorder like Alzheimer’s disease.
The sensors keep track of habits and activities like the time a person stands, sits and lies down, as well as measuring the use of household appliances.
The monitoring is designed to detect if the subject spends a prolonged period of time sitting down, carries out the same tasks repeatedly, or shows a significant change in sleeping patterns. All of these can signal the onset of Alzheimer’s.
The system can learn a person’s habits and routines in order to subsequently be able to spot any changes which could point to memory problems or disorders such as disorientation in time and space, giving up activity, or becoming isolated.
When elderly people live alone the early symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases are likely to go unnoticed.
Early detection is crucial as it provides time for the patient time to discuss treatment options and plan for their future.