Q: I have seen people using wearable seizure monitors and using other smart devices around the home. What technologies can I use to help manage my epilepsy?
A: What is smart technology? The world of smart technology is rapidly changing, which is just one reason why it is vital to keep up to date with technology options. Smart technologies are connected devices which offer us a range of sensing capabilities, remote monitoring and automatic responses. They are used to enable safety, home control and automation, health and wellness, connect you to help and support, and manage everyday life. This article describes some of the SMART technologies that can enable you to live independently and provide peace of mind.
Getting help when you need it
Personal Response Systems (PRS or PERS): if you are unwell or need assistance, it’s important to have a reliable way to call for help. There is a range of technologies to call for help. These systems allow you to send an alert or stay in contact with someone when you need support. The system provides an alert button which you can wear around your neck as a pendant, or a watch strap.
You can choose the kind of system that works best for your individual situation. Some devices work within the home whilst others enable you to access support and stay in touch when you are out and about in the community.
Devices can either be ‘unmonitored’, allowing you to connect with your friends and family when you need help, or can connect directly to a monitoring or emergency call centre. There are benefits to either system so it’s worth thinking through the options and deciding which will meet your needs.
Seizure detectors: There are a range of devices that can detect seizure activity – monitors, alarms, wearable devices and smart watches, and safety sensors that can detect movement, heart rate, breathing patterns or sounds that are associated with seizures. Some devices can be placed around the home, for instance a seizure mat can be placed on surfaces or on the bed to monitor activity overnight while you sleep. Others are wearable and can be worn everywhere you go, depending on where and when you need to monitor your seizures.
Some smart watches are designed to detect unusual movement or heart rate patterns and send an alert to friends or family as soon as a seizure is detected. These Smart watch devices may also offer additional features like falls detection, medication reminders or GPS location within the same device.
There are apps which can be downloaded onto a smart watch, which are designed and evaluated for their ability to detect activity which is linked to seizures.
Falls detectors: if you are at risk of falling during a seizure, there are also devices which detect a fall and send alerts to your support network.
An activity (or inactivity) monitoring system can also be set up to identify if there is movement or lack of movement around the home for a predefined period. For example, after a fall, the system will first ask if you are OK and if you don’t respond it will send an emergency call or alert asking for assistance.
Getting around the community
Safe walking and staying in touch: Many people use location and tracking devices to help stay safe and keep in touch outside the home or getting around the community. Many devices have an SOS button which you can use at any time if you feel unwell or need to call for help. These devices identify your location and send details to your contacts. Your family or support network can also locate you if they have concerns. These kinds of technologies come in different forms so that you can choose the one that fits your needs and lifestyle.
Managing everyday life
There are a number of smart everyday technologies that help with managing your everyday life. For instance, there are apps for smart phones which can help with reminders to take medication. There are also apps to help manage your epilepsy and keep track of seizures, monitor side effects or organise your medical appointments through a digital ‘diary’.
Medication reminder devices can also help with managing a good medication routine. These can come in the form of watches that can be used anywhere you go, or smart pill organisers which can be used within the home. Simple apps on a smart phone can also help to keep you organised and on top of your daily medication routine. Smart technologies are often most effective when you have a good back-up plan, and a clear plan of action in case of an emergency.
Support and protection
You can also find a range of low-tech options like supportive gear or protective wear in case of a fall. Some people find that extra support while walking can help ease anxiety in particular situations where they are fearful. While not a solution for everyone, supports like walk belts can provide support partners with extra grip to provide support or assistance, or help make some transfers easier. This can provide an extra degree of reassurance when used in conjunction with safe person-handling techniques. Seek advice from a health professional for a suitable solution f you.
Protective wear can also offer some reassurance and protection during activity or falls. There is a range of headwear offering varying levels of protection from hard helmets to soft padded caps and beanies.
Things to consider
To work effectively for you, these smart devices need to be reliably worn or used and may need regular charging, updates or management.
Different designs can make a huge difference to your experience of wearing or using a device. Think about the features that will make a device comfortable, wearable and easy for you to use.
Some devices will have an ongoing cost associated with the service or system used. Ask your provider about the costs involved and the kind of telephone or internet connection services required.
Looking for support with assistive technology?
You can find out more about the range of smart options and devices at www.ilcaustralia.org.au
LifeTec can help you explore possibilities of assistive technology and choose solutions that fit your needs.
Ph: 1300 543 383 www.lifetec.org.au
Epilepsy Queensland can also help you find the right devices and assistive technologies. If you are considering the NDIS, funding may be available for assistive devices. Contact our team on 1300 852 853 to discuss.