Could technology be the solution to many social care problems?

When my Mother was receiving care at home, one of the main problems was a sense of lack of control.  She and I never knew exactly when the carer would arrive or precisely who would attend. The home care itself was never a problem but this, coupled with her dementia, made my Mother uneasy.

 

When I first read of the technological solutions being used to assist home care and residential social care, I was in two minds. I remember buying my Mother an “easy-to-use” DVD recorder, which caused nothing but confusion and ended up being given to a relative.

 

Fortunately, many of the new social care solutions seems to have been developed very much with the end user in mind…

 

Kraydel

 

Kraydel (www.kraydel.com) is a set top box that connects service users and their family, friends and carers through the TV screen. The company initially looked at developing an iPad app but decided on using the client’s existing TV it would make the whole system far more accessible and familiar. Even the control buttons are designed to be unthreatening to those new to interactive technology.

 

It allows the service user to talk face-to-face with their carers from their own home. There are even plans to develop it into a system that allows service users to socially interact with others, helping ease problems of isolation and loneliness.

 

Kraydel also analyses normal daily activity and can alert carers if something seems out of the ordinary.

 

Of course, not all systems are designed to be used by the client’s directly, many are aimed at helping carers deliver a more efficient, person-centred care.

 

Cera

 

Cera, was co-developed by an ex-doctor and has been described as an Uber for carers. The idea is to use technology to match care workers with service users. It has developed beyond just a way to find a carer, the system carried digitised care records allows the carers to log important information about the client using their phones.

 

The ultimate aim is to analyse the data using AI to calculate the risk of things like falls, hospital admissions and minor illnesses. They can then co-ordinate with GPs of tailor the care package to prevent the problems from ever occurring.

 

When my mother was still at home, I was living about 150 miles away and managing her home care remotely. The agency was always good about phoning me with particular issues, but it would have been so good to have a way to check things for myself.

 

OnCare

 

OnCare allows carers to store client notes, brief themselves before a visit and ring alarm bells if there is a problem. It helps families keep track of their relative’s care by sending them text notifications and allowing them to access a special version of the app.

 

Using the system frees care worker from the need to make paper records, saving them time so they can focus on their clients more. With healthcare margins so tight and home care workers under such time pressure, anything that eases the burden is likely to be popular.

 

But what about people who don’t want care workers checking in on them and yet want to stay independent for as long as possible?

 

MiiHome

 

MiiHome is the name of a project testing low-cost monitoring devices in sheltered accommodation. The AI is intended to help detect falls and alert carers so they can attend only when needed.

 

The project is very much in its infancy and uses Microsoft Kinect motion detection technology, to keep costs low. At the moment, the challenge is translating what works in controlled conditions to those in real life. The system can currently be confused by things like unexpected visitors and one user bending down to pat their dog.

 

The initial study involving ten flats and measured data on walking speeds, activity patterns etc. to help create a baseline the AI can use as “normal”. A larger study of 128 service users is due to start soon. This study will gather data on more sophisticated parameters such as gait, time taken to stand, amount of swaying when stationary etc.

 

Anything that can help reduce the 280,000 people a year who end up in A&E following a fall has got to be a good thing.

 

Local government projects

 

The NHS Digital is also exploring the role of technology in social care. An initiative, commissioned by NHS Digital and managed by the Local Government Association, will involve 12 councils in a series of pilot projects with the aim of helping people who access social care services.

 

Projects will examine several ideas, including whether biometric technology could be used to assist people with learning disabilities and autism, as well as if “skills passports” could benefit employment and training in social care. Some tread ground similar to those covered by the private sector counterparts I have already mentioned, including linking residents with local resources to helping ease care provider shortages.

 

NHS Digital recently made £1.1m of funding available for organisations that could develop solutions to bridge the data gap between health and social care settings.

 

Several of these solutions are still in their infancy – Kraydel for example is still at the prototype stage. However, with an ageing UK population and dwindling care budgets, surely solutions like these cannot come quickly enough.

 

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