As people live longer, and the percentage of the world’s population who are 60 years of age or older continues to rise, meeting care needs is increasingly challenging. Side by Side Care and family members will always be needed, but technology might offer additional support.
The ageing population is already putting pressure on health services and caregivers. Whether it’s people with dementia, approaching end-of-life, or those with limited mobility, offering support when it’s needed is the ultimate goal.
While regular visits to service users’ homes can meet many needs, sometimes people need an extra helping hand. How that help is changing is unexpected, challenging and exciting. Inviting machines and robots into the home is something likely to unnerve most people.
In recent years, things have been much more subtle than that. Technology has found other ways to enter our lives without causing alarm.
Smartphones for care needs
Although computers arrived several decades ago, only certain segments of society embraced and used them – especially in the home. Then, ten years ago, the smartphone and Wi-Fi arrived. It was a gamechanger in so many ways. Suddenly, anyone could connect with the world. You could access information and keep abreast of family, friends and the news at the click of a button.
But how could this help those in need of care, those who cannot easily get out and who spend a lot of time at home?
One immediate benefit was security. Elderly people and those with limited movement could take better control of their home. Lighting, doorstep monitors and CCTV cameras could be controlled remotely. Even room temperatures could be more easily monitored if the right technology was put in place.
A major step forward came with video calling. Friends, family and caregivers could make extra calls and appear on-screen to give additional reassurance to people who needed to see a friendly face. The smartphone also offers handy Apps. Panic buttons that were on the wall can now be in the palm of a user’s hand – when they need to use it. Turning that around, relatives or caregivers can use GPS tracking Apps to highlight where someone is, within a house or maybe outside.
Artificial intelligence and care
Artificial intelligence (AI) is the next step as care providers look to compliment existing services. AI sounds futuristic, but in simplistic terms it is computer programming, often built into a physical device, that uses the Internet to learn, collect data and communicate with other systems.
For people wanting to live independently at home, this presents some exciting opportunities. Voice-based assistants (such as Amazon’s Alexa) now sit on tables waiting for their owner’s command.
“Find some music” and “Who won the 1974 World Cup” are general enquiries, but asking for important information about illness, how to achieve something or activating connected devices can make a real difference to someone who needs that support.
Crucially, it helps to put users in control of their environment.
Unlike a smartphone, a virtual assistant can be available in any room at any time, on standby. If a user falls, or is unable to reach a phone, a voice command can make a phone call, ask who is at the front door and open it, switch on lights or control the heating. Practical, valuable help. There are even programs that can track movement around a home, or the lack of it, and alert nominated people if concerns arise.
A virtual assistant can also be a companion. When visits from family or caregivers are not possible, or when someone simply wants a chat, the built-in artificial intelligence software can hold a conversation. The device learns, interacts and can even prompt conversations if left silent for periods of time.
There are also many assistive devices being used, such as fall sensors, lifeline pendants, bed and door sensors that alert someone if there is a problem. Tablet dispensers come with alarms to notify users when medication needs to be taken.
Ultimately, these devices are there to make lives easier.
Finding the right care mix
Adding gadgets and new technology to any home can be daunting, but there are so many potential benefits that can assist people who want to remain living at home. How people will receive care at home will change, adapt and evolve over the next few years and decades.
Side by Side Care is always here to help you and your family pick through the options. Ultimately, it’s all about finding the best way to stay in your own home feeling safe and comfortable.
For more information about how we can help develop the right care plan, call 01270 627755 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you are in the Crewe or Nantwich area of Cheshire.