Putting her mind at ease

Madam Ong Hum Ho, 75, is one of the five residents living alone in their flats who has the LUV1 elderly monitoring system installed at home.

She began to worry when neighbours at her old block in Clementi died in their flats alone, without anyone's knowledge.

With age catching up on her, she knows that there is a risk she might end up like them.

Indeed, Madam Ong Hum Ho had a close shave when she moved into her new one-room rental flat at Block 422, Clementi Avenue 1.

She recounted: "About 10 months ago, I slipped and fell in my toilet. Thankfully, I didn't injure myself. If I had hit my head on the floor or the toilet bowl, I might have passed out and no one would know that I needed help."

But now, the 75-year-old can be assured that should an accident happen at home again, help will arrive.

Since January, an elderly monitoring system called LUV1 has been installed to look out for signs of trouble in Madam Ong's home.

If the system detects long bouts of inactivity in the house, it will send an SMS alerting family members and caregivers from voluntary welfare organisation Lions Befrienders Service Association.

Madam Ong can also trigger the alarm in times of distress by pressing a button on a small device by her bedside.

LUV1 is especially important for elderly residents like Madam Ong who live alone and depend on their neighbours for help in times of distress.

The system is the product of Project Helping Hands, a partnership between Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Lions Befrienders and The New Paper.

Mr Michael Chua, manager of the Befriending Programme at Lions Befrienders, said: "There have been many cases where old folks die in their homes and their deaths go unnoticed for a couple of days. LUV1 ensures that caregivers can respond much quicker."

INSTALLATION

A total of 500 LUV1 systems are expected to be installed by the end of this year in flats in Clementi, Tiong Bahru and Ang Mo Kio, where many elderly residents live alone.

TNP editor Dominic Nathan said: "It's great to see the sensor system being rolled out to those who need it. In the media, we come across many cases of the elderly dying alone at home. Hopefully, Project Helping Hands will help reduce the chances of this happening."

Madam Ong, who used to work as a cleaner in Clementi, has two daughters, aged 50 and 36, who visit her once every six months on average.

"Without this system, if anything happens to me, my daughters would definitely not know," she said.

During this trial phase, only Mr Chua and another volunteer will receive SMS alerts of distress. But once the system is ready to roll out entirely, this can be increased to six contacts in total to include relatives.

LUV1 is a step-up from the old manual pull-cord alarm system as it reduces the likelihood of false alarms being triggered.

But it is still not entirely perfect. Madam Ong's neighbour, Mr Lee Ah Leong, has already triggered two false alarms.

Even with an advanced monitoring system watching out for her safety, Madam Ong is still not taking any chances at home.

She said: "Since that fall in the toilet, I've become much more careful at home. I'm very fortunate to not have any medical conditions and I hope to stay this way for as long as I can."

Her biggest fear: Losing her neighbour and friend Mr Lee, 83.

Madam Ong said: We depend on each other so much since we moved to this block two years ago, and I worry for Uncle (Mr Lee) because he has a history of high cholesterol and heart problems.

"The LUV1 keeps a lookout for us, but it's different from being in each other's care and company."

HOW LUV1 WORKS

1. Five motion sensors placed at strategic points in the flat can detect angles up to 100 degrees at a distance of 10m.
In Madam Ong’s flat, three are placed near the ceiling of the living room, and another two in the toilet and kitchen.

2. Magnetic door sensors at the main door update the controller to stop detecting motion within the flat when the resident leaves. The countdown timer is reset when the resident returns.

3.The sensors have a countdown timer which can be programmed from a few seconds to several hours. If motion is detected, the countdown timer resets itself.
If the timer hits “zero”, indicating that the resident has not made a movement within that time, the system sounds a buzzer. If no response is detected, it sends an emergency SMS to up to six pre-determined Lions Befrienders caregivers or family members.
The sensors are able to detect minimal movements when Madam Ong is sleeping to prevent false alarms.

4. The resident can also press an emergency device to trigger the system to send an SMS in times of distress.

5. Once the alert is received, which displays the resident’s name, address and contact number, the caregiver will immediately call the resident to make sure it is not a false alarm.
If it is an emergency or the resident does not answer the call, the caregiver will go to the flat to check.

This article was published on April 7 in The New Paper.

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