I was reading an article on the BBC website recently about various innovations that could allow more people with dementia to live in their own homes for longer. As it encompassed two of my biggest interests – domiciliary care and technology – it obviously caught my eye.
It’s no secret that the majority of people would prefer to grow old in their own homes rather than going into care. But with dementia there are clearly personal safety risks as the condition progresses. Not everyone can have a carer living with them full time; and even if there are 2 or 3 care visits every day there are plenty of hours where problems can occur.
Sadly a large number of lost and missing persons enquiries involve people with dementia.
The article featured a couple from Norway where the wife had developed Alzheimer’s. They became one of a thousand or so households using technology from a company called Abilia.
The system features a wall-mounted tablet PC which enables carers to call in regularly on Skype. There’s also a planner to remind people of events and appointments and which reminds them about daily tasks such as taking medication.
The in-home network also includes motion and door opening sensors. It activates alarms if the stove is left on for more than 15 minutes or a person opens a door in the middle of the night.
Other innovations discussed in the article include a carpet that can detect footsteps and sudden falls by integrating optical fibres into the weave. This would potentially be helpful for any elderly person living alone. And GPS is a widely available technology that could easily be used to track where people are – so long as we can come up with a simple and respectful way of ensuring that people have the device on their person.
Technology in Domiciliary Care
To me, there seems little doubt that technology has the capability to play a much more significant role in supporting more people with care needs to live in their own homes safely. Part of the challenge is ensuring that the way people interact with support systems feels as little like using a computer as possible. But with modern programming techniques and touch-screens this is far from insurmountable.
With CareForIt, service users, families and carers already have secure access to the system via the internet. We’re exploring opportunities to enhance this capability to provide a more active and constantly available channel for keeping in touch with service users. We’re also investigating ways in which service users can use the system as a logging and reminder tool for routine tasks, medication and care visits.
Clearly there is a cost implication with using technology to support people in their own homes. It would probably cost a few thousand pounds per year to equip a home with support systems like the ones in Norway and to maintain them. But compare that with the cost of admitting somebody to a care home and it starts to make financial sense.
Unless there’s a significant breakthrough in medical science, it seems inevitable that an ageing population will result in higher incidences of dementia. There will also be a larger number of people who will struggle to live fully independently.
If we can use technology effectively we will enable more people to do what we know they want to: stay in their homes for longer, either on their own or with their partner. Supporting people to live as independently as they are able for as long as possible is surely the mark of a civilised society and one where technology probably holds the key.
You can read the BBC article here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-22984876
Affordable domiciliary care management software.