The smart adaptive technology helps people with memory loss manage everyday tasks, allowing them to live independently in their homes for as long as possible. In addition to improving individual quality of life, the technology will be economically beneficial, delaying how soon nursing home care is needed.
“Keeping elderly family members in their homes as they age is a problem that many of us already know or are soon going to experience as our population continues to age,’’ said Candis Claiborn, dean of the College of Engineering and Architecture. “Through this grant, our researchers will be doing innovative work to develop smart environments that can understand and monitor our daily habits and behavior, tackling this significant national health challenge head-on.”
The four-year grant allows researchers to expand on previous work supported by Washington’s Life Sciences Discovery Fund, in which a Pullman campus apartment was retrofitted with motion sensors and voice-activated technology to mimic an in-home environment for the study.
The previous in-home deployments helped researchers to learn and code the types of activities occurring in the home. They also used software to cue the study’s participant to take medication via verbal and visual prompts. But given the technology’s limitations, there was no way to ascertain that the medicine had actually been taken.
“In our next iteration we’ll use the technology to monitor whether or not the participant has successfully engaged in the prompted task and then provide additional prompts when needed,” Schmitter-Edgecombe said. “The NIBIB grant will allow us to hire more staff and get things done a lot faster, enabling us to get the technology into more homes and further develop the tools we have. Right now we can only do one home at a time.”
“We hope to gather more information about what sort of cueing works best for people, so we can consistently provide the cues that are most naturalistic, emulating what a caregiver might do,” Schmitter-Edgecombe said. “And we’ll be looking at ways to integrate this with other technologies,” she added.
People 50 years or older who would like to participate in this study can call the WSU research message line at 335-4033 (ext. 2) and leave their name and phone number. The study tests adults with no memory problems, mild memory problems and those diagnosed with a progressive memory disorder such as Alzheimer’s disease.