Tag Archive for: QuietCare

Telecare Aware: A change of guard at GrandCare Systems

November 14, 2013 | By: Donna Cusano

This Editor has often referred to her former competitor GrandCare Systems as one of the ‘grizzled pioneers’ on the Conestoga Wagons of Telecare–even more grizzled than QuietCare (circa 2003-4) since their ur-system dates back to 1995-6, when it kept track of founder and CEO Charlie Hillman’s mother Clara. In the years since, the closely-held company has broadened its original telecare and activity monitoring tech into telehealth, socialization and home automation/monitoring into the most fully featured system in telecare/telehealth for older adults. Without making huge splashes, being beholden to VCs or moving from bucolic West Bend, Wisconsin, the company has grown through multiple alliances, the most unusual being home automation association CEDIA. GrandCare has a residential base of customers but has also developed a solid footing in senior communities both in assisted and independent living. Earlier this year, they reached into UK to partner with Saga and received the CE Mark for approval of its telehealth features for EU distribution.

The news is that they have a new CEO–Daniel Maynard, who is joining from the same position at Connecture, a software provider for health insurance comparison/enrollment (and exchange subcontractor in Minnesota, Maryland and Washington, DC.) Mr. Hillman will be moving to Chief Technical Officer, which may leave him more time for his work as a LeadingAge/CAST commissioner. Mr. Maynard understands early stage company growth, technology and healthcare well, since he has founded and developed several companies, including a predecessor to Connecture. 2014 may be an interesting year for news out of West Bend!

– See more at: http://telecareaware.com/a-change-of-guard-at-grandcare-systems/#sthash.JOO60inL.dpuf

Baby boomers use technology to keep an eye on Mom and Dad

An Article featuring GrandCare from the Toronto Star
September 10, 2010
Susan Pigg

Olive Howe had barely unpacked from her July vacation when her daughter called with a pressing personal question.

“Are you okay Mom? Because you’ve gained five pounds in the last two days?”

It has been hard for the 81-year-old South Carolina great grandmother to get away with much the last two years, since her daughter started monitoring her every move, blood-pressure blip and weight fluctuation via computer from her home five kilometres away.

“I just laughed. It doesn’t bother me. It’s a comfort knowing that if anything happens to me, or I have a fall, someone will know,” says Howe. “I do not want to go to a nursing home.”

Howe has heart problems. She needs to take her medication and watch what she eats. When she doesn’t, her daughter Sandra Pierce knows almost immediately via email or phone alerts, thanks to the remote monitoring technology GrandCare Systems.

It’s coming to Ontario soon, and just one of a fast-growing number of technologies turning the tables on the traditional parent-child relationship. Suddenly, aging parents who spent decades trying to keep on top of their kids are finding they’re the ones being watched — from across town or across the country.

Over the coming months a raft of new-and-improved remote monitoring devices will hit the market, from GPS shoes that can track the whereabouts of wandering seniors to MedCottages, portable RV-like units equipped with motion and monitoring systems that allow seniors to maintain some independence from the backyard of their adult childrens’ homes.

“As we age, this is going to be a growing trend,” says Laurie Orlov, a Florida-based expert on so-called “aging-in-place technology” aimed at keeping seniors in their houses and out of nursing homes as long as possible.

“We have to get past the fear and antagonism among the older people who need it the most. I don’t think they’re that technology-ready, but the boomers, who are their adult children, certainly are.”

Motion sensors strategically placed in the three-bedroom home where Howe has lived for 53 years feed information right to her daughter’s laptop, detailing when she got out of bed (the Friday we chatted it was 9 a.m.), walked into the bathroom (9:15 a.m.) or hovered at the kitchen table where she keeps her pills (9:30 a.m.)

Even her blood-pressure reading (165/76) is fed to her daughter’s computer, along with her daily weigh-in tally, providing a detailed graph which she often takes to her doctor appointments.

The only thing GrandCare can’t tell Pierce, because her system doesn’t include cameras, is if her mother actually swallowed her pills.

“She can’t have a bit of fun,” jokes Pierce, 59, whose mother explained her sudden weight gain by confessing to indulging in too many roasted nuts and slices of red velvet cake on vacation.

“I have the capability of going online and watching every move she makes, but I don’t typically do that. My mother is very independent and always says she doesn’t want to be a burden on anyone,” says Pierce.

Monitoring and in-home help technologies will be a $20 billion U.S. business in North America by 2020, predicts Orlov, founder of Aging In Place Technology Watch.

Already some baby boomers are able to remotely lock their parents’ doors, track calls coming into their homes and even see who is ringing the doorbell, in many cases right from their smart phones.

Systems such as QuietCare, WellAWARE, FineThanx and SimplyHome are already fixtures in some U.S. homes and seniors’ communities, although Orlov estimates fewer than 10,000 units are in active use because the systems can be so costly.

Next month, Paul Whyte, a Markham dealer of smart-home technology that allows ordinary electronics and appliances to communicate with each other, will unveil the GrandCare system at the Zoomer show in Toronto.

“I call it the invisible caregiver,” says Whyte of Cybernetics Systems Inc. “The minute I saw this system I thought, ‘There’s something that actually makes sense.’

Howe loves the system for another reason. She doesn’t use a computer, but GrandCare enables her relatives to fire off messages and photographs which come up on its large monitor (some versions of the system also plug into the TV.)

The system not only lights the way to the bathroom when Howe gets up in the middle of night, it alerts her daughter if, as happened recently, there was unusual activity in the house: A visiting relative was pacing late at night.

But all these systems remain so cutting edge, they’re intimidatingly costly and complicated, says Orlov.

“We’re not talking about something you just pick off the shelf, run home and plug in.”

GrandCare Systems, for instance, can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $9,000, depending on the level of service, plus there’s a monthly monitoring fee of $50.

Whyte plans to rent out the units for roughly $125 to $350 per month.

Virginia Wesleyan minister Kenneth Dupin has gone one step further with MEDCottages, portable units — some have dubbed them “Granny pods” or “hospital room in your backyard” — that allow seniors to be plunked for as long as needed in their adult children’s backyard.

Dupin refers to the controversial innovation as “family managed care” that he believes could become a key alternative to the overwhelmed and costly nursing home system. (In Ontario alone, for instance, there are 76,000 nursing home beds but 24,000 people on the waiting list.)

The State of Virginia has passed a law allowing installation of MEDCottages in residential backyards, over the objections of local homeowners who have already expressed fears they don’t belong in neighbourhoods.

The key, of course, with all these technologies is that the senior be relatively able-bodied and sound of mind — most are of limited value if the senior is suffering from dementia, which is expected to become a major public health issue in the next few decades.

But developers are also working hard on that challenging front.

Sometime later this fall or next spring the first GPS-equipped shoe, the Aetrex Ambulator, will go on sale through www.gpsshoe.com or www.foot.com.

Originally designed for children by Los Angeles-based GTX Corp., the new shoes are expected to retail for about $250 U.S. They enable caregivers to track those afflicted with dementia or Alzheimer’s thanks to GPS and cellular technology that will relay their whereabouts back to a monitoring centre.

“Privacy may be a talking point, but it’s not really an issue,” says Patrick Bertagna, chairman and CEO of GTX Corp.

MEDCottage creator Dupin expects concerns around privacy will fade quickly as families and health-care systems here and in the U.S. become overwhelmed by aging baby boomers — more than 76 million in the U.S., 10 million in Canada — who start hitting 65 next year.

“I see remote monitoring becoming an integral part of health care as we all age,” says Dupin. “One of the issues around aging in place is going to be making trade-offs. Privacy may be something we have to give up.”

Susan Pigg focuses on issues about aging and baby boomers.spigg@thestar.ca

GrandCare Systems Featured in NY TIMES!!


Technologies Help Adult Children Monitor Aging Parents

IN the wee hours of July 14, Elizabeth Roach, a 70-year-old widow, got out of bed and went to the living room of her Virginia ranch home. She sat in her favorite chair for 15 minutes, then returned to bed.

She rose again shortly after 6, went to the kitchen, plugged in the coffee pot, showered and took her weight and blood pressure. Throughout the morning, she moved back and forth between the kitchen and the living room. She opened her medicine cabinet at 12:21 and closed it at 12:22. Immediately afterward, she opened the refrigerator door for almost three minutes. At 1:36, she opened the kitchen door and went outside.

All this information — including her exact weight (126 pounds) and blood pressure reading (139/98) — was transmitted via the Internet to her 44-year-old son, Michael Murdock, who reviewed it from his home office in suburban Denver.

All was normal — meaning all was well.

“Right now she’s not home,” Mr. Murdock said. That he deduced because the sensors he had installed throughout his mother’s home told him that the kitchen door — which leads outside — had not been reopened since 1:36, more than an hour earlier. The opening of the medicine cabinet midday confirmed to him that his mother had taken her medicine. And he was satisfied that she had eaten lunch because the refrigerator door was open more than just a few seconds.

In the general scheme of life, parents are the ones who keep tabs on the children. But now, a raft of new technology is making it possible for adult children to monitor to a stunningly precise degree the daily movements and habits of their aging parents.

The purpose is to provide enough supervision to make it possible for elderly people to stay in their homes rather than move to an assisted-living facility or nursing home — a goal almost universally embraced as both emotionally and financially desirable. With that in mind, a vast spectrum of companies, from giants like General Electric to start-ups like iReminder of Westfield, N.J., which has developed a system to notify families if loved ones haven’t taken their medicine, are looking for a piece of the market of families with an aging relative.

Many of the systems are godsends for families. But, as with any parent-child relationship, all loving intentions can be tempered by issues of control, role-reversal, guilt and a little deception — enough loaded stuff to fill a psychology syllabus. For just as the current population of adults in their 30s and 40s have built a reputation for being a generation of hyper-involved, hovering parents to their own children, they now have the tools to micro-manage their aging mothers and fathers as well…

The system Mr. Murdock persuaded his mother to install is called GrandCare, produced by a company of the same name based in West Bend, Wis. It allows families to place movement sensors throughout a house. Information — about when doors were opened, what time a person got into and out of bed, whether there’s been any movement in a room for a certain time period — is sent out via e-mail, text message or voice mail. He said his GrandCare system cost $8,000 to install — about as much as two months at the local assisted-living facility, Mr. Murdock said — plus monthly fees of about $75. The company says that costs vary depending on what features a client chooses.

In addition to giving him peace of mind that his mother is fine, the system helps assuage that midlife sense of guilt. “I have a large amount of guilt,” Mr. Murdock admitted. “I’m really far away. I’m not helping to take care of her, to mow her lawn, to be a good son.”

His mother, Mrs. Roach, was nervous at first when her son brought up the idea of using the system. “I didn’t want to be invaded,” she said. “I didn’t understand the system and was concerned about privacy.” Now that it’s in place, she said, she’s changed her mind: “I was all wrong. I’m not feeling like I’m being watched all day.” And she really enjoys the system’s feature that lets her play games and receive photos and messages from her children and grandchildren. (She never learned to use e-mail.)

Mrs. Roach has no major health issues that require the kind of watching she is getting, and oddly enough, that is the ideal scenario. Elinor Ginzler, senior vice president for livable communities at AARP, said it’s best to discuss using such technology long before a parent’s health has slipped to a point where she might actually need it. “You frame it that way: ‘We’re so happy that things are going so well. We want to make sure to keep it that way. Let’s talk about what we can do to make sure.’ ”

What often follows is pushback. After all, this is not a generation known for its ease with technology…

Adult children who call parents to check up on them have learned to be careful about how they phrase their questions. “I personally don’t make it so that I’m watching,” Mr. Murdock said. “I don’t say, ‘Mom, I was looking and you didn’t do this.’ I say, ‘Mom, are you O.K.? I noticed you didn’t take your medicine.’ It’s a balancing act, but it’s an easy conversation. It’s not like I’m calling every day saying, ‘Did you do this or did you do that?’ ”

This Thursday’s Aging & Tech Web Meeting: Canopy Mktg by Donna Cusano, Telecare Aware

This Thursday’s Aging & Tech Web Meeting
Topic: Canopy Marketing–Getting Down to the Roots (Marketing technology directly to your community)

Thursday 10-15-09 2p Eastern/1pm Central/12n Mountain/11a Pacific

Meeting Site: www.dimdim.com room: grandcare

1. Introduction & Announcements

2. Call Topic: Canopy Marketing–Getting Down to the Roots
– How every marketing plan has several different layers in the “canopy” with different functions
– How utilizing multiple channels pays off in customers
Our market, where a technology like GrandCare is positioned, and its inherent contradiction
– What you can do that doesn’t take a fortune in marketing spend
– Open forum

3. Next week’s Topic: Carol Marak, CareBuzz offers her perspective: reaching adult children, the caregivers and decision makers, of aging parents through the Internet

4. Wrap-Up

This call is brought to you by in-home technology, GrandCare Systems: www.grandcare.com. These calls were designed to bring about a group of visionary individuals to learn from each other, network and grow! These calls are open to anyone and everyone at no charge. If you are interested in speaking, or have a topic suggestion, please reply to: info@grandcare.com