There is a growing need for caregivers in Germany, professional and non-professional, as the population is gradually growing older due to healthcare improvements. Informal caregivers face many challenges, from insecurity due to improper training for the performed tasks and lack of funding to overestimating themselves physically and psychologically. The mHealth division at the Department of Medical Informatics, Uniklinik RWTH Aachen is currently conducting research to unobtrusively monitor physical characteristics of caregivers in a clinical as well as a private setting. The goal is to warn the said caregivers if they are a performing a task incorrectly and/or if they are over exerting themselves. This thesis will support the on-going research by creating a low-cost wearable device for caregiver support.
A prototype electronic system to measure various physical indications of stress and tiredness in caregivers will be designed and implemented using hardware readily available on the market. Need for a new system arises as already established devices such as the ‘SenseWear Armband’ are extremely costly, because they have very specialized sensors to measure physical activity. Cheaper versions of wearable devices that measure physical activity focus mainly on exercise and activities such as running/jogging to measure energy expended by the wearer. The system proposed in this project will be a wearable device, powered by an ‘Arduino Lilypad’ board. The device will be housed in a sports vest, designed to be worn under everyday clothing.
The device will record signals from various accelerometers and an audio sensor, which will be used to measure the breathing rate, heart rate and movement of the caregiver. These signals will then be collected and communicated wirelessly using Bluetooth to an Android smartphone. This project will not only help informal caregivers in developed countries and further advance the field of telemedicine, but might also have applications in third world countries due to its low cost assembly.