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Roseville company creates medical devices to aid seniors

Intel-GE Care Innovations developed QuietCare system used locally
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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When Doris Herrilson heard about the installation of a device in her Eskaton Village Roseville apartment that would track her activity, she didn’t have a good feeling.

“My first thought was it’s going to be watching everything I do,” Herrilson, 87, said.

That’s a common misperception of residents unfamiliar with a device called QuietCare, said caregiver Yelena Dunaychuk.

But Herrilson soon learned the equipment isn’t a camera spying on her — instead, it’s a collection of five motion detectors placed in her apartment that use small wireless sensors to learn her daily living patterns and send alerts when out-of-the-ordinary events occur.

“It helps us be more proactive in terms of meeting the residents’ needs and making sure our residents are safe and secure,” said Ben Kwock, a registered nurse at Eskaton Village.

The device was introduced about three years ago by Care Innovations, a joint venture of Intel and GE. The company moved into its Roseville headquarters in May 2010.

QuietCare has been installed in more than 5,000 homes, the bulk in senior housing communities, said Jim Pursley, general manager for independent living at Intel-GE Care Innovations. The product isn’t covered by medical insurance and the cost varies depending on number of devices, length of contract and if the consumer rents or buys the device.

The idea for QuietCare came from a gerontologist conducting ethnographic research in Ireland. He interviewed a caregiver who cared for an elderly man who lived across a river.

Each morning, when the caregiver woke up, he’d look out his window to see if smoke was coming out of the elderly man’s chimney. If yes, that meant the man had awoken, put the tea kettle on the stove and was OK.

“If he woke up and didn’t see smoke, he hopped on his bike and rode over to check on the man,” Pursley said. “How could we make digital smoke signals that let us check on the condition of loved ones? That was the genesis.”

Eskaton Village has used QuietCare for about two years. In Herrilson’s apartment, there is a sensor in her refrigerator, over the front door, at the entrance into her bedroom, the entrance to the bathroom and behind her bed.

Kwock performs an assessment for all new residents to determine when they normally get up in the morning, go to bed at night, how long they typically spend in the bathroom and other criteria. An alert is sent when a resident doesn’t get out of bed at the normal time, stays on the floor for an extended period, is in the bathroom longer than usual or leaves their unit at a strange time — usually at night. A caregiver checks on the resident.

“It brings an alert to us that something’s not right,” Dunaychuk said. “It’s a reassurance, a backup we can always count on.”

One time, a resident showed decreased activity through the QuietCare system, and a caregiver checked on her and found her on the floor. She had fallen.

In another instance, staff was alerted when a resident had four nighttime bathroom visits, which was unusually high for her. Because of this data, a urinary tract infection test was ordered and returned positive.

Herrilson has lived in Eskaton nearly four years, and she lives by herself. She broke her hip awhile back and sometimes uses a wheelchair to move around. She says QuietCare gives her comfort.

“It’s good,” Herrilson said. “It’s quiet and you don’t even think about it.”

Pursley said the technology has had a “profoundly positive impact” on the lives of elders and their caregivers.

“It’s information caregivers can’t know,” he said. “They can’t be there 24/7.”

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.

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What’s next for Care Innovations?
Care Innovations plans to launch several new devices this year, including technology that focuses on falls — prevention, protection and risk assessment.

In 2011, the company introduced Connect, a tablet-like device with an interface designed for how elders interact with technology.

“This is not for a 65-year-old Boomer who is tech-savvy with an iPhone,” said Jim Pursley of Care Innovations. “This is for the 85-year-old living alone at home who may never have had a computer.”

Connect has messaging and communication tools to combat social isolation among elders. Care Innovations, he said, focuses not only on the physical well-being of elders, but also on their social, psychological, cognitive and emotional health.

~ Sena Christian