British scientists have developed a house to help people with dementia. It uses smart technology to monitor activity and sounds a warning when it thinks there may be a problem.
The breakthrough by experts at the Bath Institute of Medical Engineering could mean elderly people with fading memory can now stay in their own homes for longer, rather than being forced to go into care homes, reported the online edition of Daily Mail.
Dementia is a progressive brain dysfunction, which results in a restriction of daily activities and in most cases leads to the long term need for special care. Many diseases can result in dementia, the most common one being Alzheimer's.
One of the symptoms is memory loss. Although patients may recall things that happened decades ago, they often forget that they left the taps running or the gas cooker on. Other signs include lack of concentration, confusion and a tendency to wander aimlessly.
The special house has in-built sensors that can tell, for example, if the front door is being opened at night, if the bath tub is about to overflow or whether the taps have been left running.
They trigger a voice message alerting the patient. And if there's no response, a signal is sent to a chip inside the taps to automatically turn the water off.
Similarly, pressure sensors under the bed can tell if the patient is asleep or wandering around the house in the night.
The devices are programmed to send a signal to speakers in every room, which play a pre-recorded message from a loved one, telling them to go back to sleep or to turn the gas off.
Researchers found patients responded much better to voices they knew rather than a stranger. If the sensors get no response or the patient does not react to the messages, the system is programmed to call the emergency services or a neighbour for help.
The 'smart house' project by Roger Orpwood and colleagues is already being tested in a flat in south London and a sheltered housing scheme in Bristol.
"The ultimate aim is to help people remain in their own homes for as long as possible," Orpwood said.