What is assistive technology?
Assistive technology is any device or system that allows an individual to perform a task that they would otherwise be unable to do, or increases the ease and safety with which the task can be performed.
It includes a wide range of devices from simple 'low tech' items, such as, memory aids, to more high tech items, such as, GPS tracking devices to locate somebody who may have gone missing.
What are the benefits?
Assistive technology can:
- promote independence and autonomy, both for the person and those around them
- facilitate memory and recall
- help manage potential risks in and around the home
- reduce early entry into care homes and hospitals
- reduce the stress on carers, improving their quality of life, and of the person they are caring for
Difficulties that assistive technology may address
- Risk of falling
- Sensors / lights may help, particularly at night, for example when getting up from bed to go to the toilet.
- Memory difficulties, such as,
- remembering to take medication on time, Doctor's appointments
- knowing date and time and distinguishing between day and night
- Remembering to eat and drink regularly or at specific times
- Remembering mobility aid, keys, purse, etc. when going out
- Risk of wandering / "purposeful walking"
- Sensors can be placed inside the home to alert a carer or family member, e.g. if a person gets out of bed at night.
- Tracking systems using GPS / mobile phone technology can be used to locate somebody outdoors.
- Difficulty summoning help
- Waterproof pendant alarms and care phones may help somebody call for help in an emergency.
- Determining a person's care needs
- "Just Checking" consists of movement sensors which can help assess how well a person is managing at home.
What assistive technology is available?
We can supply three different types of assistive technology in Oxfordshire depending on your personal circumstances, as well as, providing information on other systems available:
Telecare – sensors in your home are linked through your phone line and a base unit connected to a 24 hour staffed monitoring centre. If the sensor detects a potential danger, such as, smoke or falls, it will automatically call the monitoring centre. Staff at the monitoring centre will then phone the person and if necessary can request further help from their family, friend / neighbour or the emergency services.
Standalone assistive technology or simple gadgets
Standalone Assistive Technology – provides a similar range of sensors to Telecare, but instead of the alerts going to a 24 hour monitoring centre, alerts or reminders go directly to the person or to a family member / carer in the property via a portable pager that the carer keeps with them.
Just Checking – consists of movement sensors which can help to determine how a person is managing their daily routine at home. In Oxfordshire Just Checking is used for short assessment periods and can be hired privately.
For more information see www.justchecking.co.uk.
How to find out whether assistive technology can help you
An assessment can be requested by contacting the Social and Health Care Team .
Tom: Hello, my name is Tom McDermott, I’m an occupational therapist and one of the leads for assistive technology for the county council. Assistive technology is a range of simple devices that people can use in their own home all linked to a monitoring centre to ensure that they are safe and also as independent as possible. This is a range of the equipment we have available that is on loan free of charge following an assessment. We also work very closely with our health colleagues in the community to support people who may have recently come out of hospital or had a fall so that they can get back into their daily routine as soon as possible.
Caroline: Before we had the technology, if there was a problem with Jim we had to rely on family and friends whereas now we have two devices that we can check. The buddy is one that we use which is a small satellite navigation box that he wears in his pocket so that we can actually trace where he is. For instance, if he gets lost, we can just log on to the internet and go on to a site and we can see and find him and turn up and find him wherever he is in the country.
Jan: I’ve been looking after Ralph with dementia for the last four to five years. Being a carer is quite hard, you’ve got to learn a lot. And when you find things are difficult and you don’t know where to turn that is very very difficult. When Ralph walked out that morning, when I found that door open, I didn’t know how long he’d been gone. I’d had a back injury, I wasn’t walking very well and the fact that I had to go out of that door with two sticks and probably walk up and down the street looking for him, it’s quite scary.
Caroline: Another piece of technology that we have is the external door alarm so that is set from 10pm till 6am in the morning. And if he goes out of the door between those times, an alarm comes through to our mobiles so that we know we can get over to him before he goes somewhere and gets lost.
Yan: The device is called an I-help. It sends out messages if I fall over to a relative or whoever I’d like, but if I get up again within about two minutes then it will send another message saying I’ve got back up again.
Tom: So one of the things that might help Ralph with his routine is this little device here. So either Ralph or yourself can record messages on it to remind him about his routine.
Jan: Sounds good
Tom: So getting up in the morning
Jan: That would really help, that would be absolutely perfect. You don’t realise how important a routine is to people with dementia
Caroline: Another device we have is a fall detector so if he has a fall in the house and doesn’t respond, it goes through to a call centre. And if there’s no response from him we get a phone call to our mobiles and then we go and investigate.
Jan: The best piece of equipment is the one I have on the top of the stairs. And Ralph has to pass by this beam for it go off. It just won’t go off, if he ever moves into the hall, he just has to break that beam for it to go off. And that’s fantastic because I then have a few minutes to know that I can get up and walk down the stairs and see what it happening down stairs.
Yan: The technology improves my way of living. It makes my life much easier and have my own independence.
Caroline: The team that looked after him were actually really helpful in putting all the equipment in. They came in. Put the sensors on the doors and showed us how to work everything so it’s been really easy from that point of view.
Jan: And I find, I feel very different in the evenings now. I can relax properly. I’m not thinking, oh the lights gone on, what’s going on? Where’s he gone now? Has he gone downstairs? Has he left the fridge open? Has he left the freezer open? With this, I know where he is going and it’s brilliant. And I would recommend it to anybody because it gives me peace of mind and is very important to me.
Caroline: The message that we need to get across is that there are things that help people stay safe and independent in their own home. And it’s actually knowing who to ask for help and it’s just about finding out who to speak to and to find out where you can get the help from.
Visual and hearing impairments
For people with visual and/or hearing impairments there are other aids that can help. People who might benefit from these can be assessed by someone from our sight or hearing impairment teams.