The Brain Injury Rehabilitation Trust (BIRT) transitional living smart house has been developed with the aim of seeing service users crossing its doorway and moving on into their own homes with personalised recommendations for technology.
The house is equipped with a system that enables the provision of support aimed at reducing risks. Automated doors and window blinds provide assistance to those with limited dexterity or mobility. Sensors and automatic shut-offs of water and electric systems offer a safety net to reduce risk of harm, while reminders and prompts help overcoming memory, executive or motivational problems.
A pilot study evaluated the effectiveness of the technology through an analysis of a log of all individual requests for help, and of the occupancy data recorded by the system. Usability was assessed by asking service users and staff about their experience and impressions of interacting with the smart house environment.
The house settings supported the person’s general safety and well being, and monitored their personal care and domestic skills. The data gathered informed the rehabilitation team about goal achievement, and evidenced areas of need.
For example, a significant reduction in the number of pager alerts associated with cooking demonstrated that the kitchen safety goals of one of the individuals were partially achieved.
However, persistent complex needs with managing finances, social vulnerability, and coping with unplanned events were still apparent at the end of the assessment period. While we found that technology is limited in terms of the range of skills it is able to support, transitional living in a service with smart home features was crucial to establish the extent to which a person with cognitive impairment is safe to spend long periods of time within the home without supervision.
BIRT aims to continue gathering evidence about the effectiveness of this technology to increasing independence, reducing costs of long-term support, and the effects that living in this environment may have on the service users’ perceived sense of control and mood.