Newswise — COLUMBIA, Mo. – Congestive heart failure is one of the most common reasons for hospital admissions among those 65 years old and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To help reduce these admissions and the strain they put on the healthcare system, researchers at the University of Missouri have developed bed sensors than can warn older adults of impending heart problems. Marjorie Skubic, a professor of electrical and computer engineering in the College of Engineering, and Marilyn Rantz, Curators’ Professor Emerita in the Sinclair School of Nursing, believe this technology can help older adults living with congestive heart failure and reduce hospitalizations.

“These bed sensors help detect early signs of illness while symptoms are manageable,” Skubic said. “Having sensors that continuously monitor heart rates provide a significant benefit for older adults, without requiring the individuals to wear or push anything.”

Skubic developed the bed sensors using a flexible tube of water that can measure blood flowing through the body. The sensors are placed under the mattress providing a non-obstructive health monitoring system to help older adults age in place.

“Sensors throughout the home detect small changes and can predict health issues,” Rantz said. “Our previous research has shown that congestive heart failure can be detected one to two weeks earlier for individuals living with the sensors. This gives health providers advance warning so interventions can be started earlier and major health events or hospitalizations can be avoided.”

Skubic and Rantz are the lead researchers for the MU Center for Eldercare and Rehabilitation Technology, an interdisciplinary group of faculty, staff and students focused on investigating, developing and evaluating technology to serve the needs of older adults. They have published 11 studies related to their healthcare technologies. They are currently completing a major NIH grant, “Intelligent sensor system for early illness alerts in senior housing,” and are assisting with a new grant, “Creation, fusion, and semantics of linguistic health summaries of sensor data in eldercare,” funded by the National Library of Medicine.