LTC BULLETIN BOARD

Technology-Enhanced Care Teams Help Older Adults Live Independently Longer

January 14, 2016
Authors: 

ALTC Editors

Citation: 

Annals of Long-Term Care: Clinical Care and Aging. 2016;24(1):37.

Researchers at the University of Missouri have been finding ways to help older adults “age in place” for more than a decade. In a new study published online September 8 in Nursing Outlook (http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.outlook.2015.08.004), conducted at an independent living community called TigerPlace, researchers found that seniors living in an independent living community with sensor technology and onsite care coordination stayed significantly longer than seniors living without the technology. 

Length of stay is an important measure because it indicates that residents’ health remains stable enough for them to continue living independently rather than transferring to an advanced-care facility or a hospital. The technology-enhanced care coordination implemented at TigerPlace could provide a cost-effective means to improve the health and functioning of older adults, whether they live in senior housing, assisted living, retirement communities, or their own homes.

Marilyn Rantz, Curators Professor Emerita at the University of Missouri Sinclair School of Nursing, said, “To double the length of stay based on care coordination and then to nearly double again based on adding sensors, to me, is huge… Comparing the cost of living at TigerPlace with the sensor technology versus living in a nursing home reveals potential savings of about $30,000 per person; potential cost savings to Medicaid-funded nursing homes, assuming the technology and care coordination are reimbursed, are estimated to be about $87,000 per person.” 

At TigerPlace, all residents receive care coordination from an onsite, interdisciplinary team consisting of a registered nurse (RN) and a licensed clinical social worker. The RN focuses on physical health concerns while the social worker addresses mental health and relationship-based concerns. Some of the residents have sensors in their apartments that monitor walking patterns for increasing fall risk, respiration rate, restlessness and pulse, and detect falls. The health information is relayed to the care coordinator who can intervene to address health changes. 

Previous research by Rantz and her team found that health problems are detected 1–2 weeks earlier in residents who live with the sensors. For the current study, the researchers monitored length of stay for TigerPlace residents for nearly 5 years. Residents who lived with sensors stayed in the independent living community an average of 4.3 years, compared with 2.6 years for residents living without sensors.

“We’re learning the real benefits of how care coordination and technology can come together to find new solutions to the persistent problems of aging. Helping people stay functionally active and independent is what it’s all about,” said Rantz.—Amanda Del Signore