A couple of years ago, Adam Jahnke’s grandfather had a fall. At 93 years old, he had been living independently and been given a pendant to wear which would sound an alarm if he needed help.
“He already had the industry standard in fall protection, a pendant worn around the neck in case of an emergency, but the problem with that is that we only find out about something after the fact – the kicker was that when my grandfather fell he wasn't wearing it,” says Adam.
His grandfather wasn’t the only one – it’s estimated that 1 in 3 people over the age of 65 fall each year, and 80% of people don’t wear their personal alarm.
When his grandfather returned home from the hospital, Adam and his family stepped up the level of care. “But we couldn't be there during the day, so we missed some key indicators that his health was declining,” he says. “He fell again, went into hospital and rehab again, and when he came out he was frailer still.”
Adam, who had years of experience working in the public health and technology fields, knew there had to be a solution. A shopping trip with his grandfather sparked an idea.
“I saw a big tin of Nescafé in his shopping trolley and thought ‘my grandpa uses the kettle a lot’,” says Adam. This simple observation led to him wondering if there was a way to track the kettle usage to better monitor his grandfather’s health.
Adam soon built a prototype of a plug system which he tested in his grandfather’s home. Support from the University of Melbourne turned the original prototype into a minimum viable product, and help with the design came from Mercy Health. Umps Health (the name a nod to his grandfather’s nickname ‘Ump’) launched in March this year.
Their main offering is the Umps Health Smart Plugs, which can be attached between any appliance and the electricity socket to measure the activity/usage. For the first 30 days of installation, the technology develops an understanding of that person’s habits which then enables it to understand when routines change. If changes do occur, for instance the fridge is no longer being opened in the morning as it would ordinarily be, a text alert is sent to the person’s family or carer so they can check in to make sure everything is okay.
The system doesn’t require internet connection – something Adam points out would otherwise present as a barrier to uptake. It was also important that the technology did not feel invasive to the person using it, and that there was nothing they had to do once the plug was installed.
Adam plans for Umps Health to work more closely with home care providers and the Commonwealth Home Support Programme. He also wants to see the technology used widely to benefit more people, including younger people with disabilities.
“Our technology works well for people earlier on in the spectrum of needs – we want to be supporting re-enablement instead of just supporting people at that later end of the aged care sector,” says Adam.
For more information, visit www.umpshealth.com