How will your life change when you have to care for an ageing parent living at home alone? How long will it take you realise if something goes wrong? What if there was a way to use technology to not just detect a problem, but to predict it before it happens in the first place?
We recently spoke with Adam Jahnke, co-founder of Umps Health and Bachelor of Commerce alumnus, about Umps Health’s work developing a system that detects and predicts incidents in the home, and alerts family by text message.
Inspiration for Umps Health came about when Jahnke’s grandpa had several falls in his home. After a stay in hospital, he needed significant support from family to enable him to live in his own home. Like many, Jahnke’s grandpa didn’t want to leave his own home and wanted to go back to his usual life (or as close to it). Jahnke’s family coordinated daily visits, phone calls, trips to the doctor and medication management while juggling full-time work.
“I looked to technology to support my family, but found that my grandpa already had the typical falls detection system – a button and pendant that is worn around the neck. The problem with this is that even when someone falls, you don’t find out about it until after it happens," said Jahnke.
"The kicker was that even when my grandpa fell, he wasn’t wearing it. I recently heard a statistic at the International Carers Conference that said 70% of older people with these pendants don’t wear them”
With a background in technology, Jahnke looked to develop a system that worked for his grandpa and his family.
He added, “The first person to use it was my grandpa, who my cousins and I all call Umps. That’s where the Umps Health name came from”.
You graduated from the Bachelor of Commerce in 2012 and are currently due to finish your Masters. Along with Geoff Ayre, you co-founded Umps Health. Tell us about Umps Health and how it’s changing lives.
The Umps Health solutions detects when someone uses their everyday appliances, like the kettle, TV, microwave and fridge. People are often creatures of habit, so our system knows when activity is unusual and sends family members a text message. This allows them to check in straight away. Knowing that the Umps Health technology is always ‘digitally there’ provides lots of comfort to family carers.
Every older person is different in their routine, and every older person deserves the care provided to them to reflect their own uniqueness and specific needs. Our solution gives family members and formal carers quantitative data from which to base their care on. Caregivers also have an interface to train the system and provide contextual data such as clinician records, so the Umps Health system is always learning, getting smarter, and supporting more personalised, quality care. This flexibility means we can cater for every type of need and circumstance.
This has two effects: firstly, Umps Health aims to reduce the high number of hospitalisations among older people, which often lead to prolonged decline of health and early entry into institutional care. In this way, we help older people to live safely and independently in their homes. Secondly, we can alleviate the guilt, grief and anxiety that many family carers feel when they are not physically present with the older person.
Where is Umps Health at the moment? What type of clients are you currently servicing?
Umps Health is currently a participant in two of the countries leading accelerator programs, the Melbourne Accelerator Program and the Young Social Pioneers program. Being part of these programs has supported us to refine our product in line with the requirements of older people and carers.
Over the past three years, significant regulatory reform has empowered older people and their families greater choice in the services they receive under the Government’s Home Care Package system. We are seeing lots of demand for our service from older people and carers, so we are working with some of the largest providers of home care to make our service available under this funding scheme.
Who benefits from the program?
There are 2.8 million Australians currently delivering unpaid care to a loved one. They deliver 1.9 billion hours of unpaid care per year, making them the backbone of our healthcare system. However, while these people care for older people and people with a disability, we don’t do a good job of looking after them. Nearly half of primary carers have opted out of the workforce, and the prevalence of mental health conditions rises dramatically as caring responsibilities increase.
Moreover, caring responsibility falls predominantly on a specific group in our society. Most carers are women, and the peak age for caring is between 54 and 65 years old. When people don’t undertake paid work, they don’t accumulate savings or superannuation and are at far greater risk of financial instability or homelessness in older age – there is going to be an explosion in the number of women over 65 living in states of homelessness.
By supporting the delivery of care, and allowing these people to be digitally present with a loved one all the time, we can support carers to continue living their lives.
What’s the next big project for the company?
This week, in partnership with Carers Australia, Umps Health launched our Dreamstarter Campaign. As I mentioned, due to caring responsibilities, lots of carers find it really hard to work and go to school while caring. For the next 30 days, we're asking for people’s support to change this. The money we raise will fund our costs to provide Umps Health’s system free of charge to a group of carers in Victoria, and support them to return to work and school while providing care. Amazingly, ING have offered to match the funds we raise up to our first $14,500, so we really have an opportunity to make a big difference here.
Is Umps Health receiving interest from government or industry?
Recently, I gave a keynote at the International Carers Conference in Adelaide. The event was attended by hundreds of Australian and international delegates from industry and government. Following on from the conference, we commenced discussions with people in the UK, Canada and Taiwan and are learning from one another. We’ve also recently spoken with senior delegates from Singapore, including the Deputy-Prime Minister, on the future of integrated care and the role that technology can play in realising it.
We definitely see it as our role to ensure that industry bodies and governments are aware of how technology can enable better outcomes for older people and carers, so that policy can support innovation in aged care.
Umps Health’s Dreamstarter campaign is currently open. Through the campaign, you can be a part of Umps Health’s goal of supporting older people and carers using technology and receive some beautiful gifts in time for Christmas. Visit https://startsomegood.com/umps-health to become a Dreamstarter with Umps Health.
For more on Adam's journey watch: