Healthcare Goes High-Tech

New and sophisticated healthcare technology systems offer another sector of opportunities for integrators.

May 17, 2011 | by Dan Daley

If you’re looking for a market sector with unlimited potential for growth, look no further than commercial healthcare facilities. Life expectancy tables show the average 65-year-old can expect to live to almost 84, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And more of America’s senior citizens are turning to assisted living and independent living facilities, as well as increasingly advanced nursing homes.

For the nearly 38 million Americans over the age of 75, according to the Census Bureau, there are 2,779,000 living or care units at 21,130 independent-living, assisted-living and nursing facilities in the U.S., according to National Investment Center (NIC) for the Seniors Housing & Care Industry. Many of those will likely be looking at electronic systems solutions to help them cope with rising tide of residents.

Related: Why Telemedicine is Necessary

There’s more than sheer numbers compelling the growing application of audio, video and automation systems into such facilities, however. The assisted living industry has undergone some significant corporate consolidation during the recession. The biggest such move was the most recent — healthcare real estate investment trust (REIT) Ventas acquired the assets of Atria Senior Living Group last October in a deal valued at $3.1 billion. The transaction was for 118 housing assets comprising around 13,500 individual units and established Ventas as the largest owner of seniors housing communities in the United States. In a similar move, Health Care REIT last year formed a partnership valued at $817 million with Seattle-based Merrill Gardens Retirement Communities.

This activity speaks to two major trends. First, the merging of REITs and assisted living facilities gives those facilities access to the capital needed to expand and to integrate more sophisticated technology systems into new and existing facilities. Second, a common collateral of any significant consolidation is the reduction of staff to eliminate redundancy and decrease overhead costs. And as it has in many other industrial sectors, integrated systems technology will be looked at to help cost-effectively boost productivity.

A Wide-Open Market
Commercial systems integrators are used to a fairly stable array of products and systems to choose from; they are also used to a rather consistent and predictable client base that is at least aware of most of their broad systems options and solutions. Those wandering into the nascent commercial healthcare systems monitoring and caregiving sector won’t find that kind of orderly familiarity.

Recent years have seen a growing procession of dedicated healthcare technology systems come to market. GE’s QuietCare is already in assisted and independent living facilities to monitor resident movement. The system uses IR motion sensors to alert caregivers to falls or wandering. The same sensorbased approach is employed to build a knowledge base about institution residents by following and logging their daily routines: when they usually go to bed and get up, leave and enter their apartment units. Analysis of these data alerts caregivers to any deviation, such as leaving the bed in the middle of the night to use the bathroom but not returning within the usual 15 or 20 minutes, which could indicate a fall.

GrandCare, distributed by Home Controls, is a fast-growing customizable solution that combines aspects of home automation technology, Internet connectivity and “telewellness” in a single wireless package that consists of a CPU connected to a standard video display and the web. The system outputs a continuous display of news, weather, pictures, email and reminders to the resident and at the same time monitors a range of wireless sensors around the living unit, such as bed occupancy, door opening and closing times, and measurements from connected scales and blood pressure from connected scales and blood pressure devices. That data is archived, processed and is accessible to a central station in the facility (or, in the residential version, to the caregiver or family member). If something is amiss, it’s programmed to generate an email, text or phone call.

A plethora of systems from Home Free Systems, It’s Never 2 Late, Simply Home and other companies are rapidly coming to market. Many are recent entries, like Simply Home, a two-year-old spin-off of an affiliation of long-term-care facilities that decided to develop its own systems and products to address the growing numbers of institutional residents through technology. But there are also behemoths entering this landscape: Last August, Intel and GE announced a 50/50 joint venture to develop and market products, services and technologies aimed at connecting seniors at home with institutional caregivers.

Related: Telemedicine Connects Alabama Doctors, Patients

Integrators will also find a sector in which the line between commercial and residential systems is narrowing to the point of invisibility: most systemic product approaches have very little difference between their home and institutional versions (the commercial versions are generally scaled for multiple terminal installations), prices are already declining — some basic but effective systems can be had for as little as $800 — and they are overwhelmingly wireless and geared for a DIY market.

Easy Does It
Stacey Pierce, director of senior solutions at The Oaks, an independent and assisted living community in Orangeburg, S.C., is neither NSCA nor CEDIA certified but nonetheless installed GrandCare systems in all 37 living units of the community campus’ three dormitory halls herself. (The company’s IT specialist made the Internet router connections.) “It’s not exactly plug-and-play — you do have to have a working knowledge of X10 and Z-Wave to get it installed properly,” she says. “You need some training, but it’s pretty straightforward.” But Pierce adds that she’s considering retaining a traditional systems integrator because she adds that she’s considering retaining a traditional systems integrator because she can’t keep up with the demand for systems at The Oaks’ other locations in Georgia and the Carolinas.

That’s a double-edged sword for commercial integrators. The real opportunity for them will lie in scaling these systems for institutional-type facilities that often have multiple levels of occupants, from relatively independent residents and those needing assistance in everyday basics like medication management and dressing, to those with Alzheimer’s-like impairments and nursing-home patients. “The systems may seem relatively simple to operate and install, but what integrators really need to understand is that this is a caregiver business,” Pierce emphasizes. “A lot of [integration] companies may be looking at this market because their business in other markets is off, but what they have to understand is that you’re not just installing and walking away. You’re becoming part of the family. You’re with them till death.”

As affluent Baby Boomers continue to age and require more services, the healthcare technology landscape will look very much like the installed security systems sector.

Jason Ray, director of business development at Simply Home, says many of the healthcare monitoring and reporting systems on the market now were initially developed for residential applications (Simply Home’s system was developed in 2004 for use in their affiliated companies’ long-term-care and assisted-living facilities and offered as a retail proposition starting in 2007) but he says that the next generation of systems will be more sophisticated, more scalable and will put more emphasis on professional installation and integration.

The company’s Butler monitoring system, now in use in nearly 300 senior-care facilities, will be rolled out early this year rebranded as the Simply Home System. It’s based on the Zig-Bee-like 802.15.4 wireless protocol, integrates cellular communications, and a broader range of sensors, such as a patent-pending stove monitor, and can perform “sequential decision making” — if a stove is on too long and an adjacent door is left open, the CPU can determine that someone left but forgot to turn off the appliance and then send the appropriate alert. It will also have extended scaling capabilities, as well as the capacity to monitor facility employees as well as residents and patients, a key function in light of rising liability costs for institutions.

Ray says that’s just one of many characteristics that sets the senior-care technology sector apart at the commercial level. For starters, assisted living and other senior-care companies have been hit by the recession, too; according to data analysis by the NIC for the Seniors Housing & Care Industry, the independent living occupancy rate was 87.1 percent in Q3 2010, down 30 basis points from the previous quarter.

In contrast, assisted living occupancy was at 88.7 percent in Q3, up 40 basis points from the previous quarter and that suggests continuing revenue fluctuation. In particular, independent living occupancy rates are continuing to establish new cyclical lows, Chuck Harry, NIC’s research director, stated in a recent forecast. And while facilities are looking to technology to reduce staff and costs and increase efficiency, they are trying to accomplish that at as low a cost as possible.

“Also, this is a healthcare space first and foremost, with all the regulatory issues that that brings with it,” says Ray. “Regulations can be pretty dense and they can vary subtly from state to state; for instance, South Carolina regulations prohibit the use of wireless nurse-call paging systems. That knowledge gap is a hurdle for integrators, and there’s no single resource to go to about it.”

Related: Polycom Administers Telemedicine to Korean Inmates

While new, more sophisticated healthcare monitoring systems are already under price pressure (Simply Home’s newest system will cost several hundred dollars less than its predecessor), they also come with a silver lining in the form of recurring revenue. Monthly service fees (monitoring or rental/lease) can range from $25 to more than $100, depending upon the level of care and services included. GrandCare, for instance, recommends its dealers charge $49 monthly for software updates and for access to the company’s portal, which generates the text, email and mobile phone alerts if the system detects an anomaly in a resident’s room. Of that amount, $30 is paid to the distributor and $19 is paid back to GrandCare. Dealers are allowed to set the monthly fee higher though the distributor, while GrandCare payments remain the same.

In fact, says Ray, once more large and small systems and product providers jump aboard what he believes will be a very big bus as affluent Baby Boomers continue to age and require more services, the healthcare technology landscape will look very much like the installed security systems sector, with a recurring revenue model for dealers and tiered packages. “What will set it apart, though, will be the increasingly sophisticated data correlation and analysis capabilities of these systems,” he predicts.

Not everyone is seeing the explosive growth of healthcare technology systems as a land rush. Companies that have been in the higher end of the sector, such as Rauland-Borg, which markets and installs patient monitoring and responder management systems in acute-care facilities, have limited presence in the assisted living and other commercial residential facility business because they see it evolving quickly into a CE type of paradigm, with thinning margins and itinerant systems installers. Maureen Pajerski, VP of sales and marketing at Rauland, says its package has to include both system installation and maintenance by a company authorized contractor. “Our systems sell based on total cost value, not just the cost of acquisition,” she explains. “At this level, they have to.”

Integrator Players
There are not a lot of systems integrators in the commercial side of this market yet. (The greater availability of consumer-type systems, though, has seen a number of residential installers jump in.) But those who are say that choosing among systems is important. Carlos Lugos, owner of Intersekt, a Coral Gables, Fla., integrator, says he researched the market for a year before deciding to use the Safely Home system, but held off entering the market until the commercial version of that company’s product became available.

He thinks the market is ripe. “The number and average [wealth] of retirees in south Florida makes this a very good place to start,” he says. But Lugos watched as several home automation companies rapidly expanded their distribution and dealer base during the boom years in the early 2000s. That, he believes, led to many less-than-perfect installations as more integrators came into the business. “A lot of our business recently has been going back and fixing bad home automation installations by other integrators,” he explains. “And when that happens, the client doesn’t blame the installer, they blame the brand. We don’t want that to happen with this market, which we think is going to be huge.”

Lugos says he chose the Simply Home solution over the one from GrandCare, which he acknowledges is a good technology proposition, but based his decision solely on his perception that GrandCare is already available to too many distribution and installation channels. Dan Milligan, president of Acme Audio Video in Scottsdale, Ariz., is using GrandCare but is integrating it with the Crestron automation systems he’s long been installing. Most of Acme’s business is residential, and Milligan acknowledges that the falloff in residential construction prompted him to look into commercial projects. Serendipitously, one of his home theater clients happened to be an investor in a local assisted living facility, and Milligan quickly saw a niche.

“We researched the assisted living market and we saw that the average age of most residents was around 85 years old. That means that we can set 40 HVAC zones at similar temperatures from a central location, and that saves them from having to send a maintenance person all over the facility several times a day to adjust thermostats.” Milligan says adapting other typical automation system capabilities, like using the same feature that generates an alert when a projector bulb goes bad to alert facility management where a light bulb has burned out. He notes that the first assisted living facility they installed the Crestron/ GrandCare solution was able to reduce its staff quickly thanks to the automation.

“GrandCare is all about monitoring the living space, but when we integrate it into an automation system, we can fill in the monitoring and reporting gaps between residential units, in the halls and common rooms, tracking people outside their living units,” Milligan explains. “There are a number of ways you can configure new and existing technology products for senior living facilities. Finding the right balance of solutions will take time and experimenting.”

Is The Market Right for You?
Getting into the commercial healthcare tech market may take starting what will likely be an extended conversation between integrator and healthcare facility. A source at one of the larger healthcare systems manufacturers said that the assisted-living and independent-living markets, and to some extent the long-term care business, suffer from intrinsic technophobia. “Sometimes I’ll be in an assistedliving facility and there’s only one computer in the whole place,” the source states, adding that, unlike acute-care facilities and hospitals that are used to high-tech systems, assisted living facilities are concerned about how the vast amounts of new information these systems output can be integrated into their current, mostly paperbased workflow. (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 [HIPAA, Title II] that brought continuing concerns about liability over patient recordswill apply here, as well.)

They’ve also raised concerns that more technology will dehumanize senior care. And the industry’s high rate of staff turnover — as much as 100 percent annually in some facilities — means any training that staff caregivers get on the systems also leaves with them. The challenge — and the opportunity — for the integrator, the source says, is to allay the technophobia and demonstrate how new monitoring data can actually improve efficiency and facility performance, particularly if it’s integrated with other office systems, which offers the pro an upsell opportunity for systems and ongoing training. And, he says emphatically: “Once they have that information, then the future for this technology sector is very bright. Instead of the episodic model used now at assisted living, where a resident sees a doctor every six months and a course of treatment is based on that, imagine if the data was continuous and automatically updated, and treatment plans can be modified immediately. That’s transformative. That’s what the integrator can accomplish.”

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Ian Sanders Interview on the Coping with Caregiving Radio Program

Listen NOW!

Listen to Ian Sanders on the Coping with Caregiving radio program, scroll to segment Home Care: Independent Living Technology – Ian Sanders, Director of Sales, SimplyHome, LLC. The host, Jacqueline Marcell, is the author of Elder Rage.

Since 2003, SimplyHome has designed, engineered and implemented technology to increase independence and lower costs, while expanding services to consumers on waiting lists. Ian leads sales, partnerships and services nationwide.
http://www.Simply-Home.com

Real-Estate Nightmare Looms for Retirees

This article has some very interesting points about the current state of the economy and how to age in place. We try to emphasis that technology is another option to allow folks to age in place for as long as possible. Please share your thoughts with us!

by Robert Powell
Thursday, May 12, 2011

Should you stay put, downsize or get out completely?

Five short years ago, many learned men and women warned Americans against thinking that rising home prices would eliminate or lessen the need for them to save for retirement. Institutions and advisers alike warned people against relying on the equity in their homes to finance part if not all of their consumption needs in retirement.

Today, that’s no longer the case. In fact, today, we have almost the opposite situation. With home prices falling for nearly five years, many Americans now must consider what to do with their homes should prices continue to collapse and the equity in their homes — if they are still lucky enough to have any equity — disappears completely.

Aging in Place

In years past, Americans planned to age in place and viewed the equity in their home as the “break-in-case-of-emergency” asset, the one asset they would use to pay for long-term care or nursing homes. Today, however, aging in place isn’t the option it once was, especially given the possibility that the equity in one’s home might be falling in value, while the cost of keeping a home — real estate taxes, property insurance premiums, and utilities — is rising.

“The vast majority of people are looking to age in place,” said Kenn Tacchino, a professor at Widener University, as well as the director The New York Life Center for Retirement Income at the American College. Unfortunately, keeping a home a person used to raise his or her family “may not be the most cost-effective or accommodating place for retirement living,” he said.

One option to consider if you plan to age in place is something that was commonplace years ago: multigenerational living. AARP and Pew Research Center recently reported that growth of multigenerational households has accelerated during the economic downturn. In fact, the number of households comprising multiple generations jumped to 7.1 million such households or 6.1% of all U.S. households in 2010, from 6.2 million intergenerational household or 5.3% of households in 2008, according to AARP. By contrast, in 2000, there were 5 million households comprised of multiple generations or 4.8% of all households.

In essence, having a multigenerational household could be one way to age in place while reducing the cost of maintaining a home.

(Read the Full Article)

SimplyHome Director of Sales, Ian Sanders, to Empower Individuals to Live Independently Through Wireless Technologies on “Coping with Caregiving” Radio Show at wsRadio.com

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 18, 2011 Ian Sanders, SimplyHome’s Director of Sales, will be interviewed on the popular “Coping with Caregiving” Internet radio program on Saturday, May 21st. Sanders will share how technology is being used to assist persons with age related concerns or disabilities to live as independently as possible in their own home or in the community.

The show features four healthcare professionals and is broadcast live worldwide 3-4:00 pm Pacific Time, with Sanders interview at 3:45 pm PT (6:45 pm ET) segment 4. To listen in, simply click on the correct “On Air Listen Live” button at the top of: http://www.wsRadio.com/CopingWithCaregiving.

SimplyHome empowers individuals and care providers through wireless technologies for independent living. Personalized systems are custom designed for anyone’s needs – independent living support for families, caregivers and most importantly, the individual.

SimplyHome offers cost-effective, innovative technological solutions to provide wellness monitoring, caregiver assistance, and in-home medical alert systems for elder care or for individuals with developmental disabilities. By creating a supportive home environment, SimplyHome allows loved ones to age in place while enjoying independent living.

For more information about SimplyHome, please visit http://www.simply-home.com .

If you miss the live broadcast, by Tuesday May 24th, you can listen-on-demand to the archive anytime. For assistance with Internet radio, please see http://www.wsRadio.com/how-to-listen.cfm.

The host of the popular 8-year old program, Jacqueline Marcell, took care of her parents who had Alzheimer, compelling her to dedicate her life to eldercare awareness and reform. She is an international speaker and author of the best-selling book, “Elder Rage”, http://www.ElderRage.com.

Please forward this announcement to those who may have an interest — and if you would like to be a guest on the show, email Jacqueline Marcell at J.Marcell@cox.net for details.

Kristen Suttles

SimplyHome Marketing Specialist

(877) 684-3581

Kristen.Suttles@simplyhome-cmi.com

http://www.simply-home.com

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It’s Official!! SimplyHome Trademarks the Service “Virtual Care Management.”

What is “Virtual Care Management?”

At SimplyHome, we noticed that many of our customers’ care teams and families were not using the online data to its fullest potential.  We also noticed that the information collected by SimplyHome Systems in homes was proving to be invaluable.  For example, Mr. J’s movement around the home dropped significantly over a three month period.  Mrs. S. started getting out of bed consistently more during the middle of the night.  This data, while not life-threatening, was signifying some important changes in daily living activity.

We decided to create a service, Virtual Care Management, that will provide care teams with additional support and information. This information can then be used to help plan for future changes, or can make them aware that a shift is occurring.  The care team can take this information and plan ahead, possibly installing grab rails around Mr. J’s home so that he has additional support and more confidence moving around his home or talking to Mrs. S to see if a medication change has made her more restless at night and the dose needs adjusting.  The Virtual Care Manager can help the care team make these plans and decisions.

SimplyHome developed the concept, ran trial cases with several existing customers, and realized that this was a very valuable service.  The trials put all doubts at ease.  Was it possible to develop a care manager/ client relationship over the phone?  We found that customers looked forward to having a conversation and checking in with their Virtual Care Manager.  Would it be valuable for the care team to receive data reports on a regular basis?  Reports outlined many details of daily living that were going unnoticed. We were so pleased with the trial outcome that we decided to go through the process of trademarking the name “Virtual Care Management”.

We chose this term because much of the care provided by this service is being conducted virtually, or not in the presence of the consumer.  Virtual Care Managers observe data remotely, no matter where the customer resides.  Thanks to the internet, the Virtual Care Manager can also research, access, and set up area resources and services that the customer may need.  The Manager can regularly check in with the customer and the family over the phone.  She can also provide the family with the regular system reports remotely.  A customer’s care can be managed from anywhere in the country.

Recently Published Article

If you have an aging parent, you realize that whether you live nearby or far away, you are a caregiver. And often, adult children of seniors find themselves more aware of the challenges of parents who are aging at home. Family caregivers who witness such age-related changes naturally desire to provide continued independence and peace-of-mind for those they care for as well as themselves.
Additionally, a substantial increase in the cost of assisted-living coupled with the wishes of many seniors to age in place, means that more families are seeking solutions for long- term care at home. (read the full article)

Emmie Fairhead is the Virtual Care Program Developer of SimplyHome, LLC, an assisted living technology company in Asheville, NC. SimplyHome provides non-invasive monitoring technology that allows elderly and disabled people to maintain independence and dignity while simultaneously providing peace of mind for their concerned loved ones. The “age in place” technology is a responsible alternative to assisted living; it helps reduce the financial burden on families by minimizing the need for in-home care providers.

To learn more about SimplyHome and to request a free assessment, visit Simply-Home.com or call 828-684-8441 to speak personally about how our products can help improve the lives of your loved ones.

Transylvania County Celebrates Older Americans Month, Local Centenarians

Silvermont Opportunity Center in Brevard, NC.

SimplyHome visited beautiful Brevard, N.C. this morning for an event at the Silvermont Opportunity Center, a community center for senior citizens living in the area.

Along with representatives from local hospitals, home health care agencies and retirement homes, dozens of elderly people from Transylvania County stopped by for fellowship, information, and to celebrate three local “centenarians”–people who have crossed the threshold of 100 years.

Brevard Mayor Jimmy Harris speaks at the Silvermont Opportunity Center.

Local leaders like Brevard Mayor Jimmy Harris gave speeches to commemorate the event. Representatives from the office of U.S. Senators Kay Hagan, Richard Burr and U.S. House member Heath Shuler visited  to mark the occasion as well.

Three local citizens who have passed the century mark were celebrated by all who attended. Mr. Lou, Ms. Coggs and Mr. Irving Hyman were treated to speeches in their honor, a celebratory cake, and recognition from local government for their service to the community. All three wore honorary corsages and smiles.

Also noted at the event was the 150th anniversary of Transylvania County, and County Manager Artie Wilson was pleased with how local seniors help younger people “benefit from [their] knowledge and wisdom.”

May is Older Americans Month nationwide, and the gathering at Silvermont was certainly a celebration of America’s elderly. Many men donned hats with insignia of their military regiments, and Mr. Hyman spoke of the difficulties of living through the Great Depression.

The theme of the day was celebratory of what local senior citizens have contributed to the area throughout its history–and how they continue to engage in the community today.

Mr. Irving Hyman and Ms. Coggs cut their honorary cake.

Be sure to follow SimplyHome on Twitter and Facebook! We are always open to suggestions for this blog. 

If you would like to get in touch with us to set up a free assessment for your home, call 828-684-8441 or email kristen.suttles@simplyhome-cmi.com

Thanks!

Marcia Wye Discusses How SimplyHome Improved Her Mother’s Life

To celebrate Mother’s Day, here is the story of one daughter’s choice to use SimplyHome technology to improve the life of her 93-year-old mother by helping her maintain independence in her home. Enjoy Marcia’s story, and visit the website of her company–MJW Home Modifications

Marcia Wye (Photo: MJWHomeMods.com)

Marcia Wye of MJW Home Modifications. (Photo: MJWHomeMods.com)

I am a Certified Aging in Place Specialist in Acton, Maine. As such I am always researching information about aging in place. I set up Google Alerts, which sent me an article written about your company and the rest, as they say, is history. I bought the system for my 93-year-old mother who needed home assistance to remain independent and safe in her home after surgery.

I am a BIG believer in the elderly remaining at home if they can do so safely, and the technology your company offered provided my mother with the opportunity to remain in her home safely. As a caregiver, safety is number one issue. SimplyHome provides that peace of mind for me and my siblings. There’s not enough 2×4′s and mortar to build enough assisted living centers for the tsunami of aging boomers coming. Your company offers options to assisted living that really works!

My home state of Maine has one of the largest aging demographics in the nation. You can fit all the New England states inside Maine, and there are so many elderly people in remote locations. Your product is absolutely perfect in helping elderly people in remote areas of Maine remain in their homes.

I’m also a computer geek, so this was a no-brainer.  Most boomers are also caregivers for their parents so the technology for your product is simple and easy for them to implement for their parents. Installation is also simple for someone who “gets” the technology and the reason for it.

As you can imagine, I receive tons of Google alerts about aging in place. Yours was the first article that popped up about assistive technology. I loved the sort of “good, better, best” choice of services. Even better than that was the a la carte menu of options. I didn’t have to use everything you offered. I could pick and choose what was best for my Mom.  Aging is a process, and your company offered options that fit what my Mother needs right now.  The great thing about your company’s offerings is that as she needs more assistive technology, I can add more! I don’t have to sign up for the whole shebang up front. And of course, the price was excellent.

Honestly, I could tell you lots of stories, but I think the most impressive facet of SimplyHome technology is the text message alerts. Most people would probably assume that getting a text message alerting them to a problem is the point of this service–but not getting one is just as important. For example, I once received an alert that Mom was taking her nightly meds earlier than usual. When I called her to find out why, she said she wasn’t feeling that well and was going to bed early.  The next morning, I didn’t receive a text message saying that she was up at her usual time.  When I went over to check on her, I found her feverous and lethargic. Turns out she had an abscess on her lung that could have been fatal had I not known to go and check on her and then called 911 to admit her to hospital for emergency surgery.

The front door alert tells me that Meals on Wheels or my mother’s other caregiver has arrived. I got an alert from Simply Home that her front door had opened that was not on the time schedule of MOW or the other caregiver. So I raced over only to find that my brother had decided to make a surprise visit. Sometimes the alerts can be pleasing!

Medicine reminders are also great. Although the technology cannot confirm that the person has consumed the medication, it does tell you if they have or have not retrieved it.  When I don’t receive a message that Mom has taken her pills, I call to remind her. It works perfectly!

Independence for Mom, peace of mind for my siblings and I and the joy of seeing how happy she is every day when she wakes up in the home she has loved for so long!

Hmm, let’s see four or five thousand dollars a month for assisted living or $70 a month for SimplyHome? You do the math. And you know what’s really interesting?  I’ve got all these visiting nurses, PT’s and OT’s coming into the house to provide services to my mom. They are so impressed by the technology set up in mom’s home and they tell me they wish all their clients could afford it. When I tell them how much it costs, they can’t believe it.

I am an experienced kitchen and bath designer, a Certified Aging in Place Specialist and have received my Executive Certificate in Home Modifications from the University of Southern California. I own MJW Home Modifications for Boomers & Beyond (www.mjwhomemods.com) and plan to add assistive technology to my company’s offerings as well.

I would recommend SimplyHome to anyone. I can’t spread the word fast and far enough!  It’s amazing how hungry people are for this type of information and services.

Thank you again to Marcia for sharing her story! Mother’s Day is a time to remember the care and kindness mothers show their children. If you think your mother could benefit from SimplyHome like Marcia did, please visit our website at www.simply-home.com or give us a call at 828-684-8441.

Steve Smith Discusses ALS & the Automated System That Improved His Life

Steve Smith and the designers of his system (Photo: www.ce.org)

Steve Smith and the designers of his enabling system (Photo: www.ce.org)

“Extra, extra, read all about it.” The news seems to change every 10 minutes, but do we really stop and dwell on the lasting effects the stories have on individuals and families?

My story is one of those 10 minute stories. Like millions of others, I have a disease that doesn’t move on. Our lives and the lives of our families are forever changed. My demon came in the form of Amyotrophic Lateral sclerosis (ALS), which is also known commonly as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Basically, it is a neurodegenerative disease that renders the body paralyzed, trapped inside a useless shell.

Having knowledge of modern technology and the willingness to use it helped me overcome the countless hurdles of my disease. I brainstormed with some of the sharpest minds in the automation industry. The result of this combination of talent and intellect was a custom-designed system that gives me the independence I had before my illness took hold.

I could not explain in words alone how such systems have an impact on daily life. The overall outlook on life changes. The stress that illness puts on your family is reduced tremendously. Your self-worth is lifted to a renewed level. Your ability to control the daily routine improves. You can control your lighting, thermostat, TV, music; you can carry on a conversation despite having lost the ability to speak.

Talk about celebrating Independence Day. You will be celebrating independence every day.

*     *     *     *     *

Steve Smith currently lives in Greenville, NC. He was an expert in home automation systems before ALS rendered him unable to work and live as he once had. His inspiring story shows the potential of technology to work miracles in the lives of disabled people who are still full of vitality and the belief in maintaining independence. 

May is national ALS Awareness Month. For more information about current research into this terrible disease–and to find ways you can help fight it–visit the ALS Association websiteTo learn more about the disease, check out this ALS information from WebMD. Also check out this video from About.com on the medical source of ALS. 

Visit IndependentLivingBlog again soon–we will tell the story of one of our engineers, Chris Whitworth (pictured above to the left) who helped build Mr. Smith’s incredibly enabling system. The system won an Innovation Award from the Consumer Electronics Association in 2007.