The number of older people living in the UK is set to increase dramatically over the next 20 years. This means there will be a greater number of older people living in their own homes and striving to be as independent as possible. With this in mind, technology that provides telecare services for older people needs to be as reliable and efficient as possible. Here we look at the types of telecare products that are currently available and those who benefit from them, as well as the benefits of telecare technology for a digital age.
By 2035 it is estimated that in Scotland alone people over the age of 75 will make up 13% of the population. This will place additional pressure on NHS and Social Services providers, particularly where older people are unable to be released from hospital due to a lack of care and support available at home. Technology-enabled care, or telecare, is an NHS initiative that seeks to help older people benefit from independent living for longer. This can include sensors around the home, personal alarms or more complex technology for those most at risk. In Scotland these services are analogue services involving wearable alarms provided by councils and those who provide sheltered housing. The current telecare alarms service offered in Scotland provides monitoring of older people at a very basic level, sending alert messages to a local alarm-receiving centre. However, if this service is to be sustained in future, then it will need to move to using digital technology.
Clearly, the main beneficiaries of telecare services are the older people themselves, as well as their loved ones. Both groups will feel a sense of reassurance that when they are wearing pendant alarms or some other sort of device, help can reach them quicker should they need it. However, the hope is that by moving telecare on to a digital platform health and social care providers will also benefit. It can eliminate the need for several devices alerting various people, as well as enabling care providers to have a complete picture of the users and to provide care that is suitable and appropriate.
The benefits of digital technology over the current analogue version are immediately apparent. Digital telecare alarms can be in constant contact with the receiving centre to enable the centre to see that they are working. They can also provide more detailed information about the user. Wearable pendant alarms that use digital technology, for example, can be used to monitor the whereabouts of the most vulnerable to ensure they are safe. Smart devices around the home include fridges that can monitor activity to ensure the users are eating properly. Moving telecare into the digital age will enable more people to live independently for longer and allow those providing care services to better tailor those services to meet the user's' needs.