Telecare and telehealth services use technology to help disabled or elderly people to live independently in their own homes and give you – the carer – peace of mind that they are safe and well.

Telecare consists of a range of unobtrusive sensors positioned throughout the home which can detect if there is a problem, such as a gas leak or fire, or if the person you look after has a problem and needs assistance. Either you or a monitoring centre can then be alerted to the problem.

Telehealth is a way of monitoring a person’s health remotely, through equipment they have in their home. The information is then sent to a health provider, such as their doctor, either through the internet, broadband or telephone connection. Telehealth can monitor conditions such as asthma, heart failure, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), stroke, hypertension and congestive heart failure.

The purpose of telecare is not to replace you as the carer, but to allow you to leave the house, or get a good night’s sleep, confident that you will be informed if an emergency occurs. In fact, in a recent report by Carers UK and Tunstall Healthcare, over 60% of carers surveyed said telecare/telehealth solutions had given them peace of mind as a carer, and one in eight carers said these solutions had helped them stay in work or return to work.  Other benefits of telecare for carers include:

  • Less stress and worry – peace of mind about the person you are looking after.
  • A greater sense of freedom knowing that you would be alerted should there be a problem with the person you are looking after.
  • Better sleep and more opportunities to relax and pursue your own interests and hobbies.

The following are examples of devices which are being used to transform the lives of carers and those they look after. Of course these sensors alone are not a solution, but when they are linked to a monitoring and response centre they can offer the peace of mind of knowing that skilled staff trained to deal with any alert will organise the agreed response.

Flood and smoke detectors Upon detecting flooding or smoke, these sensors will raise a local audible alarm and alert the carer or monitoring centre.

Gas detector and shut off valve This sensor detects the presence of carbon monoxide and natural gas, and raises an alarm with the monitoring centre or carer. If required it can shut off the gas supply automatically, making the environment safe before anyone enters.

Epilepsy sensor This sensor is placed under a foam mattress and sheet to monitor vital signs, including heart rate, and raise an alarm if seizures occur.

Bed/chair occupancy sensor This sensor fits under the mattress, or in a chair or wheelchair, and alerts the carer or monitoring centre if the occupant leaves the bed or chair and does not return within a given time period. It can also switch on lights automatically to help the cared for person find their way more easily.

Fall detector A small trigger attached to clothing, or a wrist device, alert the monitoring centre or carer if a serious fall is detected.

Home alert pager This pager enables the carer to be notified if any of the sensors are activated, when they are at home or in the garden, rather than routing them to a monitoring centre.

Property exit sensor This sensor notifies the carer or monitoring centre if a person leaves the building at set times of the day or night. It can also detect if a main door has been left open and can be linked to external lighting to provide additional protection.

Bogus caller button A panic button allows the disabled person or vulnerable adult to raise an alarm, silently if required, if they fear that an intruder or bogus caller is trying to gain access to their property.

Equipment such as blood pressure monitors and oxygen saturation level meters can be used to take readings to send to a care professional via a service monitoring the disabled person’s health. If their daily readings are abnormal, the system will alert a health professional. This may be a specifically employed nurse or their own G.P. The disabled person may also be able to speak to the health professional via a visual screen if they are concerned about their health that day.

The benefits of telehealth for the person you look after include:

  • Less hospital admissions.
  • A better quality of life.
  • Fewer long-term health costs.
  • Better health outcomes.

“I have blood pressure/pulse rate monitors; glucose monitoring….this technology helped save my mother’s life when she got heart problems.” Carer, from the Carers and Telecare report (in English)

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