Brock research to examine location technology monitoring long-term care residents

Locating someone who lives in a long-term care facility can be challenging. Residents may not always be in their room when a family member comes to visit or when it’s time to take medication.

It’s now possible for staff to remotely monitor movements and location through a bracelet residents wear on their wrist. But is this indoor locating technology the best way to handle this situation, from the standpoint of the wearer?

Alisa Grigorovich aims to find out. AMS Healthcare has awarded the Assistant Professor of Recreation and Leisure Studies in Brock University’s Faculty of Applied Health Sciences a fellowship to explore the perspectives of the individuals who are wearing these bracelets and their care partners.

A head-and-shoulders photo of Alisa Grigorovich

Brock Assistant Professor of Recreation and Leisure Studies Alisa Grigorovich.

“We will find out from them what they see as the benefits and drawbacks of this type of system, as well as its impact on their everyday life and relationships,” says Grigorovich, a social gerontologist who studies the use of technologies in aged care.

“We will also ask them for suggestions for improving how these kinds of systems are rolled out and used in line with their preferences and values.”

Grigorovich plans to interview 20 residents and 20 caregivers at one long-term care home in southern Ontario. Her goal is to gain a clear understanding of people’s experiences with the technology, along with its impacts and the values that underlie decisions to either adopt or refuse the system.

“Dr. Grigorovich’s important work looks at the required tools and technology to improve quality of care in long-term care homes and how they enhance compassionate care,” says Jocelyn Bennett, Director of Programs at AMS Healthcare. “The combination of the two is the critical piece.”

Grigorovich says real-time location systems have been used in hospitals and other institutions primarily to monitor the location of items such as expensive hospital equipment.

She says this is a pivotal time to conduct this research, as long-term care facilities are deciding individually whether or not to implement real-time location systems in their institutions.

“There’s a lot of hope and ideas about what these technologies potentially could help with in long-term care, but there’s been very little research to demonstrate their actual impacts,” says Grigorovich.

Besides saving time and inefficiency in physically locating residents, real-time location systems can also be used to develop clinical tools to assess someone’s physical and mental health by measuring the amount and distance they move across space and time, how frequently they interact with other individuals or the environment, or to alert staff if they’re in a location that could be potentially unsafe, she says.

However, electronic surveillance of older adults also raises important ethical concerns, including what information should be collected and if it can be used in ways that balance older adults’ rights to freedom and independence with the duty of care, says Grigorovich.

Concerns include an invasion of privacy, unfair restrictions on activities and movements, and negative impact on care relationships, she says.

Grigorovich is one of 13 researchers from mostly health-care institutions to be named a 2022 Research Fellow in Compassion and Artificial Intelligence, which focuses on promoting the integration of digital technology and compassionate care in the delivery of health-care services, education of health professionals and leadership in the field.

AMS Healthcare is a charitable organization that works to advance a Canadian health-care system through innovation and technology while remaining rooted in compassion and medical history.

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