Technology for Care at Home
09 November 2018
Technology constantly changes all of our lives – from apps on our phones that let us record TV programmes from anywhere, to fridges that can order you more milk when you are running low. Technological advances are improving all of our lives and making things easier, and the same is true for care at home.
Basic comforts and improvements to someone’s quality of life can be achieved through speech-recognition “home assistant” devices, which allow individuals to control their TV or radio, or phone/ video call friends of family members quicker and more easily than before, and smart-home technology makes it easier for heating and lighting to be controlled or monitored by a carer.
From a safety point of view, perhaps the most important area is sensors, which can be used to passively monitor behaviour or raise an alarm if someone is in distress. Personal alarms are now commonplace when considering care at home but there is a risk that they are not close-by if something happens, and other sensors or alarms can now easily be installed at low cost to provide additional comfort and reassurance.
Remote monitoring devices can allow friends, family or carers to be informed of unusual behaviour (or lack of behaviour) through simple sensors fitted to socket outlets, and can easily be retro-fitted in existing properties. For example, a device on the kettle can inform people how often it is boiled, or a shower, to let someone see how often it is used. The early warning signs of someone not having a shower, or making a cup of tea may be an alert to something having happened, or the early signs that additional support is required.
More advanced sensors can detect movement in a home using infra-red cameras, so an alarm can be raised if someone has not moved from a bed or a chair for an unusual length of time. Wearable technology can also record someone’s heart rate (many of us wear a fitness wristwatch which does exactly that).
Thanks to better connectivity, information can be shared and an alarm raised in real time, allowing for immediate action if something happens. As technology continues to advance, using “machine learning” we can also programme computers to “learn” typical behaviour and then by observing sensor results predict if something changes, to inform a carer of a likely event, increasing the possibility of pro-active response rather than re-active, which may already be too late.
Of course, adding devices is not a replacement for qualified carers or other medical advice and consultation, but by recording the information and results from a range of sensor systems, OTs and other medical professionals can more easily identify trends or changes in an individual over time.
We are frequently involved in home alterations and extensions for individuals who require more suitable spaces, and although technology will not solve all of the problems, combined with an improved layout or more suitable facilities, it can improve someone’s quality of life and provide reassurance and comfort for friends and family.
This blog was originally written for Scottish Care in support of Home Care Day 2018. Later this month we will be exhibiting at the National Care Home Conference, for more information visit http://www.scottishcare.org/national-care-home-conference-exhibition-awards-18/