For many families, home care is a preferable option to extended hospital stays or nursing homes. Being in a familiar place is a lot more comfortable for the elderly or those going through long-term illnesses, but there are trade-offs. A lot of families, with assistance, tackle home care themselves without the monitoring equipment found in hospitals.
EarlySense is a company that has been involved in developing devices and software for the medical industry for a while. Their latest product, Live, takes some of that expertise and brings it to the rest of us. The thin, disc-shaped device can be slid under a mattress or pad to track heart rate and sleep data. While it’s not officially a medical-grade device, it uses medical technology that proved to be 94 percent accurate in clinical trials. More than anything, it’s an affordable way for home carers to get some of that hospital monitoring equipment in the home.
Wisely, EarlySense keeps things very simple. Plugging in the tracker automatically activates Bluetooth, and the Live app will automatically detect the tracker and prompt you to connect. That’s it for setup — just place the tracker under the mattress or pad that your loved one is resting on (should be six inches from the edge, near the shoulder), and that’s it. You will need to be careful to cover the power cord, though — there’s no rechargeable battery, so it needs to stay plugged in to the wall, and you don’t want someone to trip over it. The Micro USB cable can become disconnected from the device a little too easily, as well. But, considering this will be used with people who may be bed-ridden and possibly in need of constant monitoring, it’s great to not have to worry about a battery.
Whenever someone is in bed, Live starts transmitting information over that Bluetooth connection — so make sure the connected smartphone stays nearby the bed. It could be worth it to use a cheap phone or an old smartphone laying around the house unused for that purpose.
The app keeps things simple, too. Instead of trying to stuff in a bunch of stats, Live focuses on three — heart rate, breathing rate, and sleep. Sleep tracking works similar to many other sleep trackers out there, breaking down sleep into light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep. You’ll also see how much and when the sleeper moved around at night, and can get a graph of heart rate and breathing rate over time.
I’m usually pretty down on sleep trackers. Almost every tracker I’ve used has either recorded inaccurate sleep and wake times or failed my trick test by marking out sleep stages when the thing was actually just sitting on my desk. Generally, I don’t think many sleep trackers can actually do what they advertise. So, it’s with some surprise that I can speak positively about Live. Sleep and wake times were consistently accurate, and the app could even properly tell when I was in bed but not asleep, as opposed to out of bed altogether. Heart rate tracking ended up similar to other trackers I’ve used — that’s a good thing, with optical sensors improving over the past couple years.
So, Live delivers on the promise of accuracy. The problem, as it is with all fitness trackers, is figuring out what to do with that information. In Live’s case, the answer is to share that data with medical professionals. Even without their help, Live will notify you of very obvious changes in condition, but medical professionals can use all that data in a more nuanced way, which could lead to better recommendations for care. The app also gives some recommendations, but it’s the basics — don’t eat right before going to bed, don’t use devices with LCD screens right before bed, and the like.
If you’re a home carer and plan to use something like Live, sharing the data with a medical professional is essential. EarlySense knows it, too — the app has a link to contact Amwell, a paid service that can start a video call between you and a doctor. Chances are you’ll still want to ask the family doctor instead, but if that’s not an option, it’s good to have something like Amwell as another option.
Live can also be used by healthy people to monitor their sleep, too, and have even included an alarm clock that wakes you up at the optimal time within a designated window. You can also keep a sleep diary by marking down activities that might have affected your sleep, like having caffeine or doing a lot of exercise within six hours of going to bed. If you’re really into the quantified self movement, Live makes a lot of sense thanks to its superior accuracy over wearables, but it’s a tougher sell since sleep tracking is all it does.