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Technology & care services

Technology-enabled care services (TECS) range from the simplest information apps to sophisticated monitoring devices.

They have the potential to transform how we care, especially making it possible for us and those we're looking after to have greater independence and peace of mind.

Apps

Apps are an everyday tool for many people, and can help with a range of health and care needs, from information to self-care, health management to care co-ordination.

With a huge range on offer, use trusted sources to find the best app for you. Start with the Apple App Store or Google Play, Windows Store or BlackBerry World or alternatively try app.nhs.uk to find a library of apps approved by the NHS which come with user reviews.

Alternatively, look for apps produced by organisations you trust. Carers UK has launched its very own care co-ordination app, Jointly, which has features to help make caring just that little bit easier. 

Wearables

Wearable devices – whether the new generation of Fit-Bits or the older generation of pendant alarms - can be used to track anything from the number of steps you take, your blood pressure or blood oxygen levels, to where you are or if you have fallen. Some products use digital technology, others more traditional telephony, to provide information, updates, alerts and responses. 

Telecare and telehealth

Telecare and telehealth are terms often used to describe some of the range of TECS which support independent living or self-management of health conditions. It can help disabled, learning disabled and older people to live independently and give you – the carer – peace of mind that that they are safe and managing well. 

Carers UK has a partnership with social business Unforgettable, which was founded by a carer and aims to create a vibrant marketplace for products and services designed to help people to cope better with dementia.

Telecare

Telecare  uses sensors positioned throughout the home which can detect if there is a problem, such as a gas leak or fire, or if the person using it has a problem and needs assistance.

It uses wearable technology to detect falls and tell the position of the person using it if they have wandered. Alerts are then sent to an individual, a group of nominated responders or a monitoring centre who can then respond to the problem detected.

Wearable alarm systems – pendants, bracelets, watches – also enable the person using the technology to speak directly to a monitoring centre.

Why use telecare?

The purpose of telecare is not to replace you as the carer, but to allow you to leave the house, or get a good night’s sleep, confident that you will be informed if an emergency occurs. In fact, in a recent report by Carers UK and Tunstall Healthcare, over 60% of carers surveyed said telecare/telehealth solutions had given them peace of mind as a carer, and one in eight carers said these solutions had helped them stay in work or return to work.

Other benefits of telecare for carers include:

  • Less stress and worry – peace of mind about the person you are looking after.
  • A greater sense of freedom knowing that you would be alerted should there be a problem with the person you are looking after.
  • Better sleep and more opportunities to relax and pursue your own interests and hobbies.

The following are examples of devices which are being used to transform the lives of carers and those they look after. Of course these sensors alone are not a solution, but when they are linked to a monitoring and response centre they can offer the peace of mind of knowing that skilled staff trained to deal with any alert will organise the agreed response.

  • Flood and smoke detectors:Upon detecting flooding or smoke, these sensors will raise a local audible alarm and alert the carer or monitoring centre.
  • Gas detector and shut off valve: This sensor detects the presence of carbon monoxide and natural gas, and raises an alarm with the monitoring centre or carer. If required it can shut off the gas supply automatically, making the environment safe before anyone enters.
  • Epilepsy sensor:This sensor is placed under a foam mattress and sheet to monitor vital signs, including heart rate, and raise an alarm if seizures occur.
  • Bed/chair occupancy sensor:This sensor fits under the mattress, or in a chair or wheelchair, and alerts the carer or monitoring centre if the occupant leaves the bed or chair and does not return within a given time period. It can also switch on lights automatically to help the cared for person find their way more easily.
  • Fall detector:A small trigger attached to clothing, or a wrist device, alert the monitoring centre or carer if a serious fall is detected.
  • Home alert pager:This pager enables the carer to be notified if any of the sensors are activated, when they are at home or in the garden, rather than routing them to a monitoring centre.
  • Property exit sensor:This sensor notifies the carer or monitoring centre if a person leaves the building at set times of the day or night. It can also detect if a main door has been left open and can be linked to external lighting to provide additional protection.
  • Bogus caller button:A panic button allows the disabled person or vulnerable adult to raise an alarm, silently if required, if they fear that an intruder or bogus caller is trying to gain access to their property.

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Telehealth

Telehealth  monitors a person's health remotely, through equipment they have in their home such as a blood pressure monitor or pulse rate monitor. The information from these monitors is sent to a health provider, such as their doctor or a triage centre, either through the internet, broadband or a telephone connection. Telehealth can monitor conditions such as asthma, heart failure, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), stroke, hypertension and congestive heart failure.

Why use telehealth?

Equipment such as blood pressure monitors and oxygen saturation level meters can be used to take readings to send to a care professional via a service monitoring the disabled person's health. If their daily readings are abnormal, the system will alert a health professional. This may be a specifically employed nurse or their own GP. The disabled person may also be able to speak to the health professional via a visual screen if they are concerned about their health that day.

The benefits of telehealth for the person you look after include:

  • Fewer hospital admissions.
  • A better quality of life.
  • Fewer long-term health costs.
  • Better health outcome
  • More control
I have blood pressure/pulse rate monitors; glucose monitoring….this technology helped save my mother's life when she got heart problems.

 


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Accessing telecare and telehealth

Many local council social care services offer telecare and telehealth, with older and disabled people receiving it as part of their package of care and support – some have to pay a charge according to their circumstances and their council’s approach to charging for social care.

Access to local authority provided – or funded – telecare tends to depend on a community care assessment and local eligibility criteria. However, some local authorities are starting to offer telecare outside of normal assessment processes – seeing it as a preventative service for people with low or moderate needs who might otherwise not be able access services due to rising eligibility thresholds.

Telehealth is most often provided through the NHS and, if it is available in their area, people with long-term conditions access it via their GP, community health team or hospital specialists.

However, families can also buy telecare and telehealth products and services directly. For more information on products and services go to www.livingmadeeasy.org.uk and www.alvolution.co.uk

Carers UK is promoting our own and a selection of other technology enabled products and services that can offer effective support and value for money. 


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