Early findings from new research being conducted by the University of Lincoln, Lincolnshire County Council and Serco, indicates the introduction of assistive technology at home could revolutionise life for vulnerable adults who might otherwise feel excluded or isolated.
The ‘Social Care Technology Innovation for the Citizens of Lincolnshire’ project, which has been running since June this year, is investigating how affordable home tech could be used to enhance social care service delivery and improve the lives of almost 12,000 adults the council helps support each year.
The project has found:
Access to ‘telecare’ – a monitoring service offering remote support to elderly, disabled and vulnerable people living at home alone – can be successful, but its ease of use is vital, as are systems that come with full support and servicing.
A number of people are already actively using Echo and Alexa-enabled devices for tasks like medicine reminders, recording messages to care staff, directly connecting to local authority services, general household appliance control of lights and thermostats, and even food delivery.
Unobtrusive movement sensors can oversee a person’s activity at home and help relatives or community services get a better idea of their activity, or show if they need more assistance or emergency help. However, cameras raise concerns over privacy and are not as effective at detecting, for example, skin colour changes or other specific health issues.
A careful balance is needed between technological advancements and hands-on care, meaning any devices must be supplemental and should not fully replace a physical carer’s role.
Some carers are concerned about privacy over personal data and providing devices to people suffering mental impairment, particularly dementia, as there have been some instances where people have been frightened ‘because a machine is talking to them.’
Not everyone can comfortably ‘problem-solve’ technology. A user with impaired cognition may be unable to manage an alarm pendant, meaning care solutions have to offer multiple methods of use. It is also important that each person’s circumstances and needs are carefully assessed.
Dr Salah Al-Majeed, Acting Head of the School of Computer Science at the University of Lincoln, said:
“We want to encourage those receiving council support and individuals working in Lincolnshire’s care services to contribute to our ongoing surveys, which ask questions about people’s use, thoughts and opinions on technological support in adult social care.”
To access these surveys please visit: https://lincoln.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/carers-questionnaire; https://lincoln.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/adults-questionnaire
Dr Al-Majeed concludes: “We are looking forward to revealing more detail on potential advances in technological adult social care support in a White Paper which will conclude our current project in October.”