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Electronic Underpants Help Caregivers Cope With Incontinence

Simavita says its system, which uses a wireless moisture sensor embedded in an absorbent pad, is improving care and lowering costs in 20 nursing homes across Australia.
By Dave Friedlos
Apr 30, 2010Electronic underpants that monitor and detect incontinence, and then wirelessly transmit alerts to nursing-home staff members, could soon be in use around the globe. Australian firm Simavita unveiled the electronic undergarments earlier this year, which it hails as a world's first, claiming the product will make the lives of incontinence sufferers easier, while also improving staff efficiency at senior-care centers, and reducing the overall costs of elderly care. The company's Smart Incontinence Management System (SIMsystem) employs wireless ZigBee-based moisture-detecting sensors embedded within a customized continence pad worn by aged-care residents.

According to Simavita, an estimated 80 percent of senior-care residents suffer from incontinence, costing the Australian government up to $1.5 billion annually to manage. But in trials, the company reports, the SIMSystem saved up to $2,000 in labor costs per bed, per annum.

The SIMsystem features specially designed underpants with a moisture-sensing strip connected to a transmitter.

Philippa Lewis, Simavita's chief executive, says an aging population, coupled with workforce shortages, has put significant pressure on governments and communities worldwide to develop solutions to improve the quality of senior care.

"To date," Lewis says, "the only way clinicians have been able to accurately assess the patterns and type of incontinence has been via a rigorous and demanding manual method. This requires a caregiver to check, change and weigh the incontinence pad. This is labor-intensive, produces inaccurate results from which to prepare care plans, and is extremely challenging and embarrassing for any elderly person."

As the population continues to age, and as the cost of aged care continues to rise, Lewis believes it will become necessary to develop technology that delivers labor efficiencies and improves care for seniors.

The SIMsystem, she says, offers significant benefits for the elderly and caregivers alike. For employees, it provides more accurate information regarding incontinence, leading to fewer attendances, less paperwork regarding compliance, reduced health and safety risk from manual handling, and greater time available for direct care of residents. For nursing homes, it delivers reduced labor costs, improved staff productivity, reduced laundry costs, lower pad consumption, and evidence for accreditation and funding purposes.

And for residents, it means fewer unnecessary intrusions, more personalized care and improved quality of life.

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