Dr. Susan Kirkland is a Professor and Head of the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, Faculty of Medicine at Dalhousie University. An epidemiologist by training, Dr. Kirkland’s research lies in the areas of chronic diseases and aging; she is particularly interested in the investigation of the multifactorial determinants of health as they influence healthy aging. Dr. Kirkland is one of three principal investigators leading the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging, a prospective cohort of 50,000 men and women who are being followed for 20 years. She also leads studies in physical activity and obesity, HIV and aging, frailty, and technologies to support aging in place. Additionally, Dr. Kirkland leads the SMARTech research project utilizing an innovative person-centered rehabilitation service to enable the use and integration of project partners’ proprietary and off-the-shelf SMART devices to enhance the independence, autonomy, and wellbeing of older adults aging with or into disabilities in continuing care.
Implementation of SMART Technology and a Dedicated Rehab Service to Improve Wellbeing and Quality of Life in Continuing Care
Dr. Susan Kirkland, Professor and Head of the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, Faculty of Medicine at Dalhousie University
SMART (Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology) technology has increasing potential to foster healthy aging and independence of older adults aging with impairment-related and/or aging-related disabilities. However, most research to date has focused on maintaining autonomy and independence in community and less attention has been placed on understanding how to maintain autonomy and independence when ‘home’ is an institutional setting for older adults, such as long-term care. Supporting the independence and autonomy of older adults in continuing care is especially important given that clients are typically aging with some degree of impairment, impacting their ability to optimize health and well-being, perform activities of daily living, and engage with family and friends. Assistive technologies that are currently available for use within continuing care are often not personalized or lack long-term support; those that are individualized are often labour intensive and cost prohibitive.
Using a person-centred and inclusive lens, the Living More with SMART Technology project aims to develop a personalized and scalable SMART technology solution to support older adult independence, autonomy, and wellbeing in continuing care (e.g., home care, long-term care). We aim do to this by combining three critical elements which make up the SMARTech Service: 1) using proprietary and off-the-shelf SMART devices with training resources 2) assessment tools that support customization of devices to individual clients’ needs within their environment and 3) a rehabilitation team that includes an occupational therapist and rehabilitation assistants to assess clients’ needs for SMART devices and their environment, provide troubleshooting, and liaise with care staff and partners to ensure successful implementation and engagement with the SMART devices. All three elements are necessary to ensure the SMARTech Service is successful in developing a personalized solution for clients that takes into consideration the individual, their carers, and the broader organization. For this reason, the SMARTech Service is innovative because it offers clients not only the technology but the dedicated support needed to use the technology in attaining greater autonomy and independence.
Using a mixed method approach, we will use both qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection to understand the impact of the SMARTech Service upon older adults living in continuing care. Participants in this study include 50 residents in long-term care who have complex care needs due to aging with disability (those living with pre-existing impairment) and aging into disability (those living with age-related declines in sensory, mobility, or cognition) and 25 residents living in home care. Additionally, we will interview caregivers, staff, and continuing care management to understand their perceptions of the SMARTech Service on the impact of their workload and job satisfaction.
Potential outcomes and impacts of this project are multifold and may include increased older adult wellbeing, function, independence, social interaction and participation; economic benefits in terms of savings generated by using cost-effective strategies as a first-line intervention, positive impacts on staffing demands, duties, workforce productivity and policy and systems level benefits in terms of new ways of incorporating the use of assistive SMART technologies into organizational procedures, decision making, and policies.