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Technology for carers

Looking after someone who is ill, disabled or vulnerable can be stressful and physically demanding. Even the strongest and most determined of us can sometimes need technology to take some of the strain. However, the choice of technology available for carers can be confusing.

As well as hoists and stairlifts, homes can also be fitted with sensors that detect a range of everyday problems such as an overflowing bath, a gas ring left on or the person being cared for leaving the home unannounced.

Sensors that detect such incidents are often referred to as telecare schemes and can also be specific to certain conditions. For example, sensors can be placed under the mattress of someone who has epilepsy so that their heart rate can be monitored and alerts sent to a carer, call centre or a mobile phone if they have a seizure.

There is also equipment available that helps your doctor monitor your health at home. This equipment is known as "telehealth" equipment, and can include blood pressure monitors and blood sugar level detectors that automatically send information to your doctor.

Telecare and telehealth

Telecare and telehealth are being used more and more. They involve installing health monitoring equipment in a patient’s home. The results are then sent daily to a community health team.

Telecare and telehealth aim to cut down on hospital visits or delay the need for someone to go into a care home, and give both the carer and the person being cared for added peace of mind.

Over the next four years the government is set to invest up to £18 million at five sites across the UK to promote and demonstrate how new technologies and innovative services can help support independent living for older people and people living with long-term conditions.

Other assisted living aids

The traditional stairlift has been modernised. Stairlifts are now available for both inside and outside a home. There are also stairlifts that allow a person to stand if they have trouble bending their knees.

Such technology can help prevent accidents, cut down on the physical strain of caring and give both the carer and the person being cared for greater independence.

Also available are gadgets such as voice-activated televisions and light switches, and phones with enlarged buttons. These all help to free up a carer’s time.

Some people worry that using technology will replace the traditional role of caring.

“In many cases, there will not be a great reduction in human interaction,” says Carers UK spokeswoman Emily Holzhausen. “Technology has the power to let people be more independent.” This also helps carers spend more quality time with their loved ones.

Cost is another concern. Having stairlifts and sensors fitted in a home is not cheap.

Financial help is there, says Carers UK. Housing associations, councils, health trusts and charities all offer a range of technology for free or at a reduced cost, following an assessment of need. The charity recommends that carers get in touch with such organisations locally to find out the best and cheapest options available.

Real lives: Doris' story

Technology can transform lives. Read how one carer is being helped by an innovative telecare scheme in Sunderland.

Read Doris' story here

Or watch the video below to see how one carer gets help by having technology in her daughter's home.

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Someone with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities has a complex range of difficulties, including learning difficulties. In this video, an expert explains some of the challenges of this condition, and a mother describes how her daughter's difficulties have affected their family life.

Media last reviewed: 21/11/2012

Next review due: 21/11/2014

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The 1 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Carer Geek said on 13 February 2012

Can I suggest to anyone who gets this kind of technology that they make sure it works, we found out the hard way that we had been supplied with equipment that had problematic charger connections, (the problem was known but the council still installed it), the base station had a loose connection, I thought it had charged although it hadn't, it only intermitantly charged. We havedoor exit sensors, bed exit sensor, carbon monoxide and smoke detectors linked to it. We only found out about the fault when we had a burglary and the door exit sensor didn't record when the door had been opened. Suppose in other circumstances someone had exited the property and the alarm hadn't gone off, or a fire?

This technology is good but make sure you check it out thoroughly, we still have a problem with a faulty door sensor despite the council and manufacturer inspecting it and saying it is fine. A door alarm sounding at 1.00am isn't fine, it is frightening, luckily we have a very understanding police force.

Don't be put off having this equipment just don't rely 100% use some caution.

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Page last reviewed: 13/12/2013

Next review due: 13/12/2015

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