Design and Implementation of a Smart Home in a Box to Monitor the Wellbeing of Residents With Dementia in Care Homes

Front Digit Health. 2021 Dec 21;3:798889. doi: 10.3389/fdgth.2021.798889. eCollection 2021.


There is a global challenge related to the increasing number of People with Dementia (PwD) and the diminishing capacity of governments, health systems, and caregivers to provide the best care for them. Cost-effective technology solutions that enable and ensure a good quality of life for PwD via monitoring and interventions have been investigated comprehensively in the literature. The objective of this study was to investigate the challenges with the design and deployment of a Smart Home In a Box (SHIB) approach to monitoring PwD wellbeing within a care home. This could then support future SHIB implementations to have an adequate and prompt deployment allowing research to focus on the data collection and analysis aspects. An important consideration was that most care homes do not have the appropriate infrastructure for installing and using ambient sensors. The SHIB was evaluated via installation in the rooms of PwD with varying degrees of dementia at Kirk House Care Home in Belfast. Sensors from the SHIB were installed to test their capabilities for detecting Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). The sensors used were: (i) thermal sensors, (ii) contact sensors, (iii) Passive Infrared (PIR) sensors, and (iv) audio level sensors. Data from the sensors were collected, stored, and handled using a 'SensorCentral' data platform. The results of this study highlight challenges and opportunities that should be considered when designing and implementing a SHIB approach in a dementia care home. Lessons learned from this investigation are presented in addition to recommendations that could support monitoring the wellbeing of PwD. The main findings of this study are: (i) most care home buildings were not originally designed to appropriately install ambient sensors, and (ii) installation of SHIB sensors should be adapted depending on the specific case of the care home where they will be installed. It was acknowledged that in addition to care homes, the homes of PwD were also not designed for an appropriate integration with ambient sensors. This study provided the community with useful lessons, that will continue to be applied to improve future implementations of the SHIB approach.

Keywords: ambient assisted living; care home; connected health; dementia; pervasive computing; smart homes; ubiquitous computing.