New findings from AKTIVE study reveal previously-unevaluated benefits of telecare

People reluctant to use home technology in times of crisis, research reveals

A partnership between telecare provider, Tunstall, and the universities of Leeds and Oxford has unearthed new evidence on the benefits of telecare in improving independence and social inclusion for older people with dementia or those prone to falling.

The consortium, which also includes Leeds City Council, Oxfordshire County Council, Skills for Care, Carers UK, Age UK, and industry partner, Inventya, shared ambitions to develop a research programme that explored how older people, particularly those susceptible to falls or with memory problems, may benefit from having access in and around their homes to various types of telecare technology and how this affects the other people and systems involved in their care.

What we have learnt is some people in the study were reluctant to use telecare during times of crisis as they did not want to bother the response team. We need to improve early support and provide clear information on how telecare can work for them

Participants involved in the Technology Strategy Board-funded AKTIVE study recognised that telecare was helping them to hold onto highly-valued aspects of their lives, helping them to preserve their character as an active, independent or capable person by retaining a sense of self and confidence. As part of a wider support network, telecare gave users the confidence to try new activities that they previously found difficult.

Professor Sue Yeandle from the University of Leeds, said: “Research shows that telecare – assistive devices such as personal alarms, GPS systems and monitoring sensors – really does make a difference to the lives of frail older people and those involved in their care. It can help them to retain independence, remain active in their communities and support them to manage household and personal tasks.”

Many participants, particularly those living alone following the loss of their spouse, or recovering from falls or injuries, came to view telecare as a sensible and rational option for anyone in a similar position.

Telecare also helped to make previously-inaccessible environments, accessible. Some areas of homes and gardens, such as staircases and upper floors of houses, were difficult to access due to being too risky. Telecare helped to manage these risks by making users feel safer and more secure in their own homes.

Simon Arnold, managing director for the UK and Ireland, said: “People’s lives are filled with technology, so research of this nature is vital for us to understand people’s needs so that we can continually progress our approach and propositions. This should lead to better outcomes for the people who use telecare services, as well as those who fund such services, and helps people to live better, safer lives.”

People’s lives are filled with technology, so research of this nature is vital for us to understand people’s needs so that we can continually progress our approach and propositions

He added: “What we have learnt is some people in the study were reluctant to use telecare during times of crisis as they did not want to bother the response team. We need to improve early support and provide clear information on how telecare can work for them.”

A participant in the study had been hearing impaired for more than 30 years and lived with a condition which caused her to fall unconscious without warning. After telecare was provided, the lady had the confidence and improved mobility to move freely around her home, and came to value the alarm for the peace of mind it gave her and her daughters, despite her initial resistance. In praise for the pendant’s ‘go steady’ notification, she said: “I am more careful and feel safer with this around my neck. I am now more careful with what I do.”

The project highlighted the need for a holistic assessment of all aspects of older people’s lives, which considers their mental and physical capacity, daily routines, desired activities and how they would like to receive support.

Tunstall’s involvement in the AKTIVE study will help to further shape future solutions, such as the mobile social inclusion platform, myworld. It also provides excellent research for the industry as a whole, offering a source of information for providers who are expanding their own services to include technology.

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