How Technology Can Help People With Alzheimer's Avoid Emergency Rooms

Alissa Sauer
By Alissa SauerAugust 20, 2019

Many Americans are turning to technology in hopes of detecting or preventing medical conditions or diseases, like Alzheimer’s. More than just expensive, emergency room visits for senior loved ones with the disease can be confusing and traumatizing.

Learn more about the importance of avoiding unnecessary trips to emergency rooms for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease and how technology is helping families do just that.

Alzheimer’s and Emergency Rooms

Often loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia end up in the emergency room (ER) because an incident occurs after normal office hours or a lack of urgent care appointments available. However, because of the nature of the disease, it can be very confusing and traumatizing.

There’s no doubt that the ER is a chaotic place. Things happen fast in an ER, and rightfully so. Unfortunately, the sounds of patients in pain, pages, and the constant movement can be challenging for someone with Alzheimer’s, even devolving into delirium. It can also be hard for loved ones to answer the questions posed by medical workers, further contributing to the confusion of a person with dementia.

A 2018 study published in the Annals of Long-Term Care concluded that “Perhaps we need to reconsider whether the ER is an appropriate site of care for patients with dementia. The expansion of house-call practices that bring both providers and technology to the patient, rather than the patient to the provider, may be an alternative to ER care. Providers should also consider earlier initiation of palliative care for patients with dementia. These approaches might better serve patients with dementia, their families, and the health care system.”

Technology for Early Alzheimer’s Detection

One way that caregivers and senior loved ones with Alzheimer’s are avoiding costly trips to emergency rooms is through early detection and preventative care. Ultimately, early detection can help families coping with dementia make a long-term care plan that encompasses financial, mental, physical, and social needs. This can also help reduce family costs by being prepared for an emergency, before it happens, potentially avoiding a costly visit to the ER.

“Technology every day is playing a more important role in preventing and even diagnosing illness,” said Gary Shapiro, chief executive of the Consumer Technology Association and author of “Ninja Future: Secrets to Success in the New World of Innovation.”We are just beginning this journey of revolutionizing health care and reducing trips to the doctor.”

Voice analysis technology is one developing area for early detection of Alzheimer’s and related forms of dementia. Using hundreds of metrics, including breathing, pitch, tone, and word choices, voice analysis technology is being used to detect changes consistent with dementia.

“We look at about 540 different metrics,” said Liam Kaufman, chief executive, and co-founder of Winterlight Labs, whose firm focuses on detecting cognitive medical conditions. “We published several studies in 2015 and 2016 that found we could predict Alzheimer’s at the time with 82% accuracy — and today we’re at about 93%,” he said.

Has your parent or senior loved one with Alzheimer’s needed emergency care? Share your personal experiences with loved ones with the disease in emergency rooms and any tips you may have in the comments below.

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Alissa Sauer

Alissa Sauer

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