How smart meters could help people with dementia

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In a bid to reduce falls, accidents and potential hospital admissions, preliminary research has started into smart meter technology and how it can help monitor people with dementia at home.

Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust and Liverpool John Moores University are monitoring 50 patients and looking at their daily routines via the smart meters.

Traditionally our gas and electric meters have been in boxes on the outside or side of our houses and every now and then someone from the gas or electricity board will come out and take a reading.

Smart meters have become increasingly popular in recent years as they send energy report usage in real time back to the energy suppliers, reducing the need for a person to physically visit and take a reading. Dr Paul Fergus and Dr Carl Chalmers are hoping to spot behavioural trends in people with dementia via the smart meters.

The meters record usage such as household appliances being turned on or off, a kettle being switched on and the oven being turned on ready for cooking. This in effect will capture habits and routines of individuals through their interaction with everyday devices and appliances.

The data collected could signify any changes in behaviour of a person with dementia, for example if they start becoming more active in the evenings or in the night as opposed to the day, this could be a symptom of dementia called ‘sundowning’. If a person usually pops the kettle on in the morning, followed by the lounge lights and television but suddenly fails to do so one morning, this could alert family or emergency services if there’s been a potential fall.

While the research is still in its very early days, it is another positive step in the right direction. The smart meters still allow a person with dementia to go about their day-to-day life and retain their independence, but the monitoring of their habits could give great piece of mind for the person’s family and carers.