More and more people are using technology to help run their lives. Smartphones and watches get us up in the morning, tell us when our appointments are and even count the number of steps we take in a day. Although you can be forgiven for thinking wearable technology such as FitBits is being aimed at and developed for the young, there is another application which is helping the elderly and infirm to stay safe and healthy. Wearable technology such as pendant alarms has been around for some time now, helping older people stay in their homes and keep their independence for longer than in the past. As the population ages, there is a growing need to help an increasing number of us overcome the obstacles thrown at us by physical infirmity and loss of mental agility. Living independently for as long as possible is now the goal of many - and new technology can help in many respects.
A constant worry for relatives of elderly people living alone is what will happen to them in the event of an accident. Falls are sadly common, and if mum or dad falls when there is no one else in the house, it is often difficult for them to raise the alarm. Thankfully, there is now a large range of affordable telecare devices designed to alert relatives or the emergency services in just such a case. Some are worn as pendant alarms around the neck - others as watches on the wrist. In most cases, the wearer just has to press a button on their pendant/watch; others are voice-controlled. In the most advanced ones, the device can detect falls or long periods of non-movement, raising the alarm automatically. On call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the technology also allows a call handler to ask the elderly person if they are alright - maybe they pressed their button by accident. If there is no reply, the alarm is raised and someone sent to the home.
The more advanced wearable monitors can detect daily patterns of behaviour, alerting carers when something does not seem right - if the elderly person has stayed in bed longer than normal, for example. There are even wearables that provide medication reminders, so vital medicine is not missed, and devices which connect to a carer’s Bluetooth phone, sending them an alert if the patient leaves the house unexpectedly. Lively's Safety Watch system goes a step further by using a ‘hub’ connected to a series of sensors around the user’s house which enable it to ensure that medication has been taken, meals have been eaten and the user is moving around as they would in a normal day. Another more recent advance is the Proximity Button, which sends an alert to a carer’s phone when the user goes out of a certain area. It is proving invaluable in ensuring people with dementia do not wander away from their normal settings. We should all be thankful that telecare is enabling our loved ones to live the lives they want to for longer.