Using technology for independence
New technology can help us live independently and stay in control of our own health and wellbeing. You may hear this kind of technology referred to as telecare and telehealth.
What is telehealth?
Telehealth equipment is designed to help people who live at home to manage their long-term health conditions. These devices allow you to monitor your health without having to keep visiting your GP.
When you get equipment you will be shown you how to take readings and send them automatically to a health professional who will check your results and keep an eye on your health needs.
How could telehealth help me?
Here are some ways telehealth can help you if you have with long-term health conditions.
- If you have high blood pressure, a monitor can help you measure your blood pressure at home and automatically send the results to your GP.
- If you have asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, you can get a device that measures levels of oxygen in your blood to show how well you’re breathing. Your doctor or nurse can check these readings and give you help at an early stage.
- If you’re diabetic, a glucose meter can keep a check on your blood sugar levels. You can also get a low blood sugar alarm that looks like a wristwatch. You wear it at night to warn you if your blood sugar drops when you’re asleep.
- If you get recurring urinary infections, a simple telehealth device can test for this. You send the results electronically to your healthcare professional so you can get early treatment.
Ask your GP, health visitor, or community nurse about what is available in your area and whether you’re suitable for telehealth monitoring.
What is telecare?
Telecare refers to devices that detect when a person has had a problem, and send alerts to a designated call centre which then organises assistance.
For example, the alert might get sent if you left the gas on by accident, or a personal alarm would allow you to call for help if you had a fall.
How could telecare help me (and my family or carer)?
Here are practical ways telecare can help you stay independent at home:
- Personal alarms are worn as a pendant or bracelet, and allow you to call for help if you have a fall.
- You can get a fall detector that can automatically sense if you’ve fallen. It alerts someone, usually a member of staff at a response centre, without you needing to push a button.
- If you’re worried about burglary when you’re out of the house or asleep, an intruder detector can sense movement in your home and alert a response centre.
Here are practical ways telecare can give peace of mind if you have a family member or friend who lives alone:
- Pagers will notify you if a telecare sensor is activated, such as a fall detector.
- If you’re worried the person could fall in the night, bed sensors will alert you if they get out of bed and don’t return within a set period of time.
How to get telecare products and services
There are different ways you can access telecare services:
- You may be eligible for help. Contact your local adult social services department and ask for a free care needs assessment. Depending on your needs, you may have a telecare service provided. Ask whether there’s a trial telecare scheme in place so you can make sure it’s suited to your needs.
- Speak to your GP or an occupational therapist. They may recommend a telecare system as part of a continuing health or care package, but there’s often a charge for telecare services.
- Do some research before buying your own telecare service, product or device. Refer to the next section for more advice on this.
What do I need to consider when buying telecare products?
Before spending money on a telecare product or service, you should consider some of the following things:
- Is telecare right for you?
- Have you contacted your local adult social services department to ask for a care needs assessment? You may be entitled to financial help.
- Have you checked your benefits? If you’re eligible for a benefit such as Pension Credit, your council may charge you less for a telecare service.
If you're buying a telecare product, you should:
- list the things you want your product or service to do, and check your list against the product's features
- check there’s a guarantee and a returns policy in case it doesn’t meet your needs
- read customer reviews to find out what other people think
- consider leasing or hiring larger or more expensive products - remember your needs may change in the future
- check different designs and think about how things will look in your home
- shop around for the best price
- ask whether the installer can come back regularly to check everything is working correctly.
If you’re a carer, it's important that you make sure the person you’re caring for is comfortable and confident using the product.
Use the online benefits calculator to find out much money could you claim.
What should I do next?
Contact the Disabled Living Foundation
The DLF can help you find out more about telecare and telehealth suppliers in your area.
Every year our Advice Service deals with thousands of calls from older people in need. Call us today to make sure that you are receiving all the help and support available to you.
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