Steve Smith, Welbeing’s CEO, describes how TECS such as telecare is helping to change lives of the people they support. Even since Welbeing was established in 2005, technology has developed at an amazing pace.
From a personal point of view, I can’t even imagine how I lived my life without my smart phone and tablet. The possibilities technology offers to Welbeing service users has also advanced beyond measure in the last ten years.
Telecare, or TECS as it is now becoming known, was yet to be developed when Welbeing (then known as Eastbourne Borough Council’s Lifeline service) first started monitoring community alarm systems back in 1986. Today we are using solutions which can automatically raise a call for help if they detect the wearer has fallen, sense if someone has left their bed during the night and failed to return safely or get help for someone who is having an epileptic seizure. We can even locate someone who is lost, reassure them that help is on the way and notify their family that they are safe.
This was the case for Mrs A. She was 52 years old and living with her son in a large 3 bedroom house rented from the local housing association when she was diagnosed with dementia in 2010. Mrs A also had a sister living nearby who offered support, but she also worked and had a young family.
As her condition deteriorated Mrs A’s needs increased. In 2014 she was beginning to become lost on her daily walk. Her housing officer suggested Mrs A might be happier in supported housing, but as she waited for a place to become available social services asked Welbeing to install a telecare system. As the house had no landline, a GSM home unit (a SIM card based unit) was fitted to raise an alert at Welbeing’s monitoring centre via the mobile network if Mrs A pressed her personal pendant or the smoke detectors were activated. A property exit sensor was also installed to alert the family if Mrs A left the property at night, and a Memo Minder – a wall mounted infrared device – was installed with her sister’s voice recorded to remind Mrs A that if it was dark she should not leave the house.
In December 2014 Mrs A was offered an apartment in an extra care scheme nearby where they had a complete telecare package on site. This included a property exit sensor which alerted staff if Mrs A left her property at night, and during the day she wore a GPS tracker on her wrist. This ensured Mrs A was free to socialise in the building and to enjoy her walks, but staff could assist her if she left her flat at night and locate her if she became lost. The system also has an auto answer function, which meant staff and family members could call Mrs A and reassure her if she became distressed. Mrs A remains independent and part of her community, and she and her family are happy that she has a level of freedom but remains safe.
Without TECS, life for Mrs A would be much poorer. She may well have had to move into traditional residential care as it wouldn’t have been possible for her to remain in her own home as long as she did. The system itself is relatively low cost but its value to the people that use it is immeasurable.
It’s not just people with dementia or older people that can benefit. ‘J’ is 19 and lives in an annexe attached to his mum’s property. He has cerebral palsy and is a full-time wheelchair user. J manages most tasks by himself but requires some help with personal care. His mum is his main carer and J calls out to her when he requires assistance.
J has had a lifeline unit, smoke detector and keysafe installed for some time, so that any risks he faced when at home on his own were well managed. However, six months ago, following a serious illness, his mum lost her hearing overnight, resulting in her being unable to hear J calling her. J rang his social worker to request an urgent review, and both his and his mum’s changed needs resulted in further telecare support. A DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) system was installed which included a vibrating wrist pager and pillow shaker for J’s mum, a push button transmitter (as a personal alerter for J), a DDA smoke detector, a DDA doorbell and a telephone transmitter. This would then alert J’s mum (both day and night-time) to J’s need for assistance, the telephone ringing, the door bell ringing and/or the smoke detector activating.
J’s response when we asked him the difference the additional TECS equipment had made was that life had ‘returned to normal’.
The potential for telehealth to transform lives is also becoming ever-more apparent as people are living longer with chronic conditions such as CHF and COPD. Telehealth monitoring systems enable people to take their own vital sign readings at home and upload them to a central database where clinicians can view them and advise and treat as required. Early intervention means that problems can be addressed earlier with better outcomes and patients can monitor their own progress on a day to day basis and see the benefits of adjustments to lifestyles.
And this is exactly what we aim to do; help the people we support to achieve their normal. The possibilities represented by TECS today are amazing, and Welbeing is working hard to help as many individuals as possible become aware of what is available and to help them access it.