Regardless of the country you reside in, or the political affiliation you ascribe to, most of us can agree that the brave people who dedicate their lives to keep us safe deserve the highest level of care available when they return. While advances in medical treatment have allowed soldiers to survive traumatic battlefield injuries that previously resulted in a loss of life, many of our servicemen and women are returning home with life-changing conditions that will require ongoing care.
Whereas the increased survival rates for these soldiers represent a distinct improvement in the quality of equipment and medical care, those wounded in battle often find themselves dealing with injuries that are complex and require a great deal of medical treatment or rehabilitation.
Beyond the physical challenges of learning to walk on prosthetics or using a wheelchair, there are the also those dealing with brain injuries that cannot be seen. And even with the visible wounds that can be seen; there are still emotional, and psychological components that come with being in a battle zone that may not be exposed.
As we improve medical technology and continue to develop new methods that save the lives of the wounded, we need to focus on giving them the best chance for recovery and survival as they return home. As they try and adapt to a new future, creating an environment that supports their unique needs and provides them with a sense of control and independence is as critical as the care they receive.
One of the most devastating statistics is the number of returning veterans that are committing suicide, with an average of roughly 22 veterans committing suicide every day. As our servicemen and women return home, it is crucial that we are engaging with them to ensure that they are getting both the physical and emotional support they need.
Creating a home that is welcoming and that can meet the medical concerns of our veterans is about more than just widening hallways and adding new technology. Smart technologies should also work to find new ways to connect with those at risk and provide the ability to reach out to someone in need in real time.
Additionally, by creating more safe environments for those who may be considering suicide to reach out for help, we can hopefully reduce the number of self-inflicted deaths among this significant population.
Building a Home That is More than Smart
For many returning veterans with life-altering injuries, the homes they return to are not designed to meet their psychological and physical needs. This can result in a situation where the place they once felt comfortable now seems like a constant reminder of what their limitations are. This is why the need of new smart homes for veterans becomes is such an important issue. A home where they can feel in command and have some level of independence can help them address both the physical and emotional sides of their new reality.
Smart home technology can do more than provide a safe and stable home for veterans when they return. It can also allow them to recovery in their own space, meaning they can spend less time in medical facilities and more time at home with their family. By creating a place that feels like home it does more than just support the needs of the veteran, it also provides for their family. By building a space that addresses and accommodates the medical and emotional needs of the wounded, you also lessen the burden for everyone in the household.
Essential Devices in Smart Homes for Veterans
Doorbell Cameras which link directly to a smart phone can provide the extra layer of comfort and security. Veterans are able to check who is at the door and speak to the visitor from wherever they are in the house or apartment. They can additionally turn on the doorbell camera to check on the house at anytime, using the on demand feature.
Our top choice doorbell cameras for veterans are the Ring Doorbell Pro (check prices at Amazon) and the Doorbird Video Doorbell D202 (check prices at Amazon). We chose these two doorbells because of their advanced security features, including high quality motion sensors and best in class HD cameras.
Smart locks are highly secure locks which can be controlled from your smart phone and work particularly well in combination with doorbell cameras. You can first talk to the visitor and then make the decision to open the door or not. This can be particularly useful for less mobile veterans to let in friends and family from wherever they are in the house.
Our top choice for Smart Locks for veterans is the August Smart Lock (check prices at Amazon). We chose this Smart Lock because of it’s highest reputation for security and it’s ability to integrate with almost every smart home automation hub.
Voice Activated Smart Hub:
The latest smart home hubs which interconnect all your smart devices (in addition to many other very cool features), allow users to take control of all of your smart devices by simply telling what you want utilizing it’s voice recognition You can tell it to open the front door or speak directly to visitors via the doorbell camera without even using a smart phone. You can control lights for anywhere in the house,
Additionally it can allow you to listen to audio books, request an Uber car, listen to the news and sports results and even order a Dominos pizza!
Our top choice for smart home hubs for veterans is the Amazon Echo (check prices at Amazon).
Technology that is Life Changing
The need for independence for returning veterans cannot be overstated. These are people who are used to being in charge, and when they are injured and recovering, they may feel like they are no longer in control. By adding smart technology that can give them a sense of command over their home and recovery you also give them back their pride. Having a sense of authority over their home as they deal with emotional challenges can not only assist them with their physical recovery, it can also let them connect more with their family and regain the role of parent or spouse.
Just like you may need to create a space with wider hallways and doorways to accommodate someone in a wheelchair, those dealing with traumatic brain injuries also need additional help. By adding sensors that can track movement and redirect someone when needed, you can start to help them relearn some of the skills they may have lost. Sensors that can provide corrective steps can assist them with memory and repetition as well.
Additionally, these sensors can also provide reminders to take medication, and make it easier to turn on and off faucets and showers by voice. Sensors can also report data back to their physician so they can be alerted should someone fall or become non-responsive.
By adding automation that can open doors, turn on and off lights or even set the temperature on the oven, you can provide a needed sense of independence for someone who struggles with asking for help. Managing simple tasks without asking can help build confidence in someone who is going through recovery. Adding timers to electronic appliances can also provide added security in the event someone forgets to turn off the over, or leaves a gas burner on.
One of the primary goals when building smart homes for veterans is to design a home that is just that a home; when you provide a house that the entire family can enjoy, and that can still offer technology solutions that allow support and help when needed things can start to feel more normal for everyone.
While building smart homes for veterans is a start, there are still some issues that can hide in the shadows, like PTSD. With an average of 20% of war veterans returning home with some level of PTSD, finding technology that can help manage the effects, which include panic attacks and night terrors, without the use of prescription medication can be challenging.
But the good news is that there is promise for new organic solutions that can help make veterans sleep easier. myBivy is a tracking app that is focused on sleep patterns. Designed by Tyler Sklusacek as a way to help his father, an Iraq war veteran dealing with PSTD and night terrors, get a good night sleep, the app is designed to track sleeping habits by pulling data on the person’s heartbeat and movement.
The system then formulates a pattern using the data collected. The app learns the person’s habits and can detect when a person is having a night terror. The watch will them vibrate just enough to return the person to a lighter level of sleep, which can often stop the night terror. While this technology is still new, it has the promise of extending beyond just preventing night terrors and perhaps helping with a variety of both psychological and physical conditions.
Charities That Are Making Smart Homes Possible
While we know that our returning injured veterans need homes that can provide them with the smart technology that can help them live easier and more fulfilling lives, most servicemen and women don’t have the money to build a smart home that can address all of their needs.
There are several charitable organizations that focus on building new, or updating existing, homes for wounded soldiers. They work to restore independence and provide smart homes for veterans that are equipped with smart technology that can provide the support that they need. By providing homes for veterans in need, they give them a chance to recover in the safety of their own home.
Some of the charities providing that focus on providing smart homes for veterans include:
Building Homes for Heroes®
Founded in 2006 this organization is committed to providing mortgage-free homes by building or modifying existing homes to meet the needs of men and women injured while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. In addition to providing homes, they also offer financial planning, family funding and other emergency support options to injured veterans.
By focusing on accomplishments rather than injuries Building Homes for Heros® feel that they can engage more veterans to support the organization and increase the amount of support they can provide to those in need.
Building for America’s Bravest
As a part of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, this charity is focused on creating custom designed, specially equipped homes for veterans dealing with catastrophic injuries. Smart homes that are intended to support the unique needs of those dealing with serious injuries can include features like automated doors, lighting, and smart showers, as well as cabinets that can retract when required to make it easier for wheelchairs to maneuver more quickly around the house.
Gary Sinise Foundation
Through the R.I.S.E. program, the Gary Sinise Foundation provides smart homes, and home modifications that incorporate smart technology and mobility devices to help veterans and their families as they deal with severe injuries.
The goal of the R.I.S.E. charity is to provide returning heroes and their families with the technology and resources to overcome the challenges they now face. By the end of this year, 51 new smart homes will be completed or underway.
Helping a Hero
Helping a Hero is the second largest organization in the US that is focused on building homes returning service men and women dealing with devastating injuries. With 100 homes awarded in 22 states, their focus remains on providing houses that are designed to help wounded warriors on their path to recovery.
However, unlike some of the other organizations that cover the full cost of the home, Helping a Hero does ask for a $50,000 contribute from the veteran. All other expenses are covered by the charity, developer, builder, and grants that are provided by the VA through the Specially Adapted Home grant that is provided for severely wounded veterans that have lost limbs, suffered severe burns, or that end up wheelchair bound.
Caring for the men and women that return from the battlefield with life-altering injuries can often seem like a daunting challenge. And while smart homes for veterans can provide technology and a home that is designed to meet the challenges of someone dealing with prosthetics, wheelchairs or the night terrors associated with PTSD, more needs to be done.
As more of our veterans return with severe and traumatic physical and brain injuries, we need to continue to look for new ways and technologies that can provide them with even greater support. Helping the brave men and women that invest their lives to keep us safe and free by helping them find homes where they can have a better chance at a happy life is the least we can do.