Technology and Equipment
Living independently when you have difficulty doing ordinary day to day things can provide lots of challenges and risks. There is however an ever-increasing range of tools and equipment that can help people live as ordinary life as possible and keep them safe.
Rapid advancements are being made in the field of telecare, although this is a term that covers a very wide range of technologies and initiatives. Broadly speaking this involves some kind of monitoring or call device being fitted in someone’s home, which has the capacity to send messages or alerts to someone who is then able to respond to provide support and assistance or check that the person is okay. This technology is therefore designed to provide clients and people who care about them with reassurance and a quick response and to provide assistance when needed.
This can take many forms. At one level there are call systems where the person can call for assistance if required through the phone line, bracelet or pendant worn around the neck. These are sometimes referred to as Community or Social Alarms. At the other level there are systems that respond to what the individual is doing e.g. a sensor that knows when you have got out of bed and turns the light on automatically in order to reduce the risk of falling. There are also systems that will send an automatic alarm if someone has for example got out of bed and not returned within a specified time – taken as an indicator that something untoward may have happened. The alerts from such systems can go to call centres that will send professional help as a response (having perhaps tried to phone first), or they can go to a neighbour or carer.
In some types of accommodation, such as sheltered housing, the basic community alarm will usually come as a standard part of the provision. In other circumstances there may be installation charges, but if you are eligible for assistance from the Council then these will probably be covered; Weekly charges for the service will probably vary from £1.50 per week for the most basic service to £9 per week for the complex forms of telecare.
There is also something called “telehealth”. This will involve monitoring remotely things like blood pressure, blood glucose levels and cardiac health. This may not be restricted to times when the person is at home but will use mobile technology to do so while they are out and about.
Many of the more exciting innovations in this whole field are still in the development and testing phase and may not be available at the moment to access outside of specific pilots.
Aids and equipment
There is also a range of aids and equipment available that can assist people to undertake ordinary everyday activities. If these meet the definition of “daily living equipment” and you are eligible for social care as far as the Council is concerned, then they are obliged to assist. This excludes equipment that meets a nursing, medical, educational or employment need. So for example it is unlikely that the Council will provide you with a specially adapted computer (although you may be able to purchase one with your personal budget). If you do need this kind of thing in connection with your job or finding a job then you may be able to get assistance through the Access to Work programme.
Aids that will be available from the Council will include equipment to get you in and out of bed, the chair ,the bath, toilet etc, as well as gadgets to help you carry out household tasks. You will generally however get very little choice. And this help will be subject to the financial assessment rules.
Other equipment will be available through the health service. Walking aids for example will normally be available to people with mobility disabilities referred by a GP and after assessment by a hospital-based physiotherapist. Wheelchairs (including electric ones) will also be available through the NHS for free – both for people who need them permanently or occasionally e.g. if going out on a trip. There are no formal eligibility criteria for this but informally demand may exceed supply and this will mean that you will have to meet locally-set priorities.
It can be confusing as to which equipment is provided by the Council and is therefore chargeable, and which is provided by Health and is therefore free. There is no easy answer to this, but Health (usually in the form of community nurses) will accept responsibility if the need being met is primarily a medical. You may have to be prepared to argue about this.
Buying your own equipment
If you are not eligible for statutory help or you wish to increase your choice you can purchase from the burgeoning private market. A good place to go and look to see what kinds of things are available is a Disabled Living Centre. If you cannot afford to purchase then there are a number of charities that may be able to help. The best way to find out about these is through an organisation called turn2us. Alternatively you might look to hire equipment or purchase second-hand. There is a voluntary organisation that provides a Disability Equipment Register through which you can obtain second-hand equipment.
Most sources of help available will be very locality-specific, and you are likely to need to make enquiries locally to follow up on any of these ideas. If you do want to find out more we suggest that you look at sources of advice and information first.
As with everything else the important thing is to carefully consider what the consequences of your situation are, what you want to do about it, what you want to achieve, and what resources you have available. Then with this information make a plan