What is assistive technology?
Assistive technology is technology that supports people in their everyday lives. This can include smart home technology, mobile phones and more specialised equipment
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
Ways that technology may help. Below are some examples of how technology may support you at home
- Reduce risk of falls
- Sensors / lights may help, particularly at night, for example when getting up from bed to go to the toilet.
- Support your memory
- 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
- If you are concerned at becoming lost or disorientated
- 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.
- Summoning help in an emergency
- Waterproof pendant alarms and care phones may help somebody call for help in an emergency.
- Determining a person's daily routine
- Activity monitoring sensors consist of movement sensors which can help assess how a person is managing at home.
What assistive technology is available?
In Oxfordshire we use a range of technology.
Telecare sensors in your home are linked through your phone line and a base unit connected to a 24/7 staffed monitoring centre. If the sensor is triggered e.g. smoke alarm, pendant pushed or falls alarm is activated, 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.
There are 2 levels of the Telecare Service. This is a chargeable service and a financial assessment maybe required.
The service includes provision, installation removal and maintenance of alarm and associated Telecare equipment, as well as a 24/7 monitoring centre.
Level 1 – up to £5 per week
Provision of an alarm base unit and trigger/sensors giving access to a monitoring centre, registered and accredited by the Telecare Services Association, to provide a 24/7 voice response to alarms calls only. The service user will need to provide names and contact numbers for at least two appropriate responders. These can be family, friends, Carers or neighbours. They need to be able to respond appropriately when contacted.
If, when the alarm is activated, it is obvious that a response is required from an emergency service then they shall be called in conjunction with the named responder(s).
Included in this level is allowance for a service user to access the higher level 2 service for a maximum of six weeks in any one rolling calendar year, without any additional charge - for example, if their carer is on holiday.
If the six weeks are exceeded, then the service user should receive a further needs and financial assessment for a long-term increased level of need.
Level 2 – up to £10 per week
Provision of an alarm base unit and trigger/sensors giving access to a monitoring centre, registered and accredited by the Telecare Services Association. The service users are not required to provide named responders at this level of service.
24/7 emergency visiting response by care staff. The provider is registered with the Care Quality Commission (including the provision of lifting aids with appropriately trained staff to Oxfordshire Shared Care protocols). Provision of a key safe may be required.
Referrals can be made by contacting the Social and Healthcare Team LINK or you can refer yourself privately (prices may vary).
Standalone assistive technology
Equipment that is not connected to a monitoring centre. Equipment that is triggered directly alerts the person or family member / Carer who is in the property, via a portable pager that the Carer keeps on their person.
Activity monitoring systems consist of movement sensors (not cameras) which can help to determine how a person is managing their daily routine at home e.g. when someone gets up; when they leave the house; when they go into the kitchen etc.
This can be useful in finding out what support someone might need at home. In Oxfordshire we have two systems, Just Checking and Canary Care, which are used for short assessment periods by our Adult Social Care Teams. However, they can be purchased or leased privately from the companies directly.
How to find out whether assistive technology can help you
It is important to consider what type of technology may best help you as the solution can be different for each individual. You should think about what you need help with, how the technology may fit in with your life, your routine, and how it will work with other items you are using. It is also important to understand who will respond if an alarm is raised.
If you wish to be assessed for this equipment through Oxfordshire County Council then you need to complete a form. You can request an assessment indicating that you are interested in assistive technology.
Following assessment, we may be able to loan some items of technology for you to use, depending on your personal circumstances.
You can also get information and advice from some of the links below. Many of the items of equipment are available to purchase privately.
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.
More information and advice
There are a range of resources available to help you take control of your own care. To find other local services near to you visit our Live Well Oxfordshire directory.