Home-based care technologies

Home-based care (previously referred to as “domiciliary care”) has been a longstanding support for carers. It can be provided by local authorities, or private companies (and occasionally by some NHS community care trusts). More progressive providers have recently embraced technology, including extension for example to enable workers to check on things like oxygen pressures in home cylinders. Now these organisations are beginning to integrate with environmental and with health monitoring technologies services to provide a lower cost more responsive service to support carers and those they care for alike. Fitting under this sub-category too are local online repair services, some offered by councils.

There is also a rapidly emerging class of robotic technologies, pioneered in Japan that will offer considerable assistance to carers (particularly, though all will benefit) delivering some form of ‘intelligent’ assistance with minimal or no human involvement. Current examples of this are:

  • Amazon’s Echo, which understands spoken voice even from far away and can access/control a wide range of connected items, such as home heating and lighting, as well as ordering taxis (Uber), delivering wake-up calls etc. – as Amazon upgrades the programming and as people work out how best to use it, technologies like this will in time be a means of delivering the much discussed “intelligent home”, controlling the delivery of many of the other topics mentioned earlier, such as vital signs and environmental monitoring, and responding to situations that arise.
  • Robotic vacuum cleaners and, for those with significant lawns, robotic lawnmowers – as robots able to help with reaching and lifting are already available in Japan, this class of physical assistance robots is set to grow rapidly, and of course to include self-drive cars in due course.
  • Devices for managing remote door entry, curtain closing and a wide range of tasks for those with very limited muscular strength; there are even apps that can speak for you in your own voice if you have lost the power to speak yourself.
  • Medication reminders (though note that research shows that many people who do not take medicines as prescribed do so on purpose – addressing those reasons is essential otherwise reminders will be ineffective).
  • Much more trivial, though immensely valuable if correctly deployed, are the current fast-boil kettles, good at reducing dehydration, movement sensitive lights, good for avoiding falls at night, and movement sensitive pre-recorded voice messages to help people especially with dementia – however many of these may in time be taken over by the Echo-type technology.

Medication management Case Study

Graham and Philippe

“Our 30-year-old son Philippe lives with my wife, Claude, and me at home so we can make sure that he takes his medication. He was diagnosed with epilepsy when he was 16. Even with us living under the same roof it’s not always easy to see if he has taken his medication. Technology has given us peace of mind and he doesn’t get annoyed with us constantly asking.If he misses a dose of his medication he will almost certainlyhave a major seizure. But for 24 hours after this he isn’t really himself and can miss other doses causing more seizures and he can get himself into a bit of a mess for a few days.

In 2016 we wanted to take a trip to see our daughter in Australia, but it presented huge problems leaving him on his own. I found this dispenser, which alerts us via text message or email if he has taken his medication. If the message doesn’t come through, we can ring him up and remind him. It gave us a huge amount of reassurance and allowed us to go on holiday for a month. We use the dispenser all the time now and, to be honest, I wish we had found it years ago.”

Examples of suppliers include:

Home-based care

  • Cera: an online domiciliary care service
  • SuperCarers: is a marketplace for carerworkers
  • Vidaan online domiciliary care service

Robotics

  • Amazon’s Echo
  • Therapybox: has a wide range of technologies to help people who have difficulty communicating including those who have lost their voice

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