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Technology Helps Older Adults Living With Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive heart failure is one of the most common reasons for hospital admissions among those aged 65 and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To help reduce these admissions and the strain they put on the health care system, researchers at the University of Missouri (MU) have developed bed sensors than can warn older adults of impending heart problems. Marjorie Skubic, PhD, a professor of electrical and computer engineering in the College of Engineering, and Marilyn Rantz, PhD, RN, FAAN, curators’ professor emerita in the Sinclair School of Nursing, believe this technology can help older adults living with congestive heart failure and reduce hospitalizations.

“These bed sensors help detect early signs of illness while symptoms are manageable,” Skubic says. “Having sensors that continuously monitor heart rates provide a significant benefit for older adults, without requiring the individuals to wear or push anything.”

Skubic developed the bed sensors using a flexible tube of water that can measure blood flowing through the body. The sensors are placed under the mattress, providing a nonobstructive health monitoring system to help older adults age in place.

“Sensors throughout the home detect small changes and can predict health issues,” Rantz says. “Our previous research has shown that congestive heart failure can be detected one to two weeks earlier for individuals living with the sensors. This gives health providers advance warning so interventions can be started earlier and major health events or hospitalizations can be avoided.”

Skubic and Rantz are the lead researchers for the MU Center for Eldercare and Rehabilitation Technology, an interdisciplinary group of faculty, staff, and students focused on investigating, developing, and evaluating technology to serve the needs of older adults. They have published 11 studies related to their health care technologies.

— Source: University of Missouri Health