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Supporting the elderly to age in place

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Gavin Bashar, UK MD of Tunstall Healthcare, discusses how seniors can find the products, technology, and services aimed at helping them maintain their independence, age-in-place longer, and have a higher quality of life.

It is vital to invest in assistive technology. Where users are older or vulnerable, assistive technology improves their quality of life while also making a difference to their health and wellbeing, as well as supporting those who care for them. Technology is an enabler and as more smart homes harness assistive care solutions, the right person-centred care can be delivered more effectively.

When people use assistive technology, it enables clinicians and other stakeholders to view data from multiple sources and adapt care delivery according to the individual’s needs. Intelligent systems can provide both predictive and preventative measures when assessing risks and mitigating circumstances, to improve and sustain desirable health outcomes. We can use assistive technology to empower individuals, families and carers, and ensure people have the right level of care and support to age-in-place safely.

Assistive technology can give people more freedom to live their lives as they choose and also ensure much-needed medical and social care resources are channeled to the areas that need them most.

The impact of COVID

Although it’s been acknowledged for years that the UK’s health and social care systems have been in crisis, COVID-19 created a global emergency which has caused irreversible changes. The impact of the pandemic has led to the healthcare monitoring landscape changing rapidly.

We’ve seen greater investment in TECS by industry leaders, people taking more initiatives when it comes to looking after their own health and wellbeing, and increased public awareness of the crucial role played by health and social care in society and the nuances of what’s available, such as healthcare monitoring.

The COVID-19 crisis has also led to the rapid deployment of technology, such as telecare and telehealth at a rate never seen before, which has proven that the digital landscape has never had a more crucial role to play in protecting and preserving the social care sector. For example, initiatives such as remote health monitoring which would previously have taken months to put in place have been operational within two to three weeks since the pandemic began.

As much as the pandemic has brought immense pressure to bear on our healthcare system, it has also resulted in a spotlight placed on assistive technology and healthcare monitoring, and just as importantly, the new models of care delivery that make technology a success.

 

The new healthcare monitoring industry

The pandemic has changed the course of not only the healthcare monitoring industry, but health and social care as a whole.

Our ageing population and funding challenges had already placed our health and social care systems under increasing pressure. Staffing shortages, lack of funding and inefficiencies had all led to our services finding it increasingly difficult to provide the required care, however leaders in these sectors were still reluctant to invest fully in healthcare monitoring pre-COVID despite clear benefits.

Although the COVID-19 emergency brought the biggest challenges to the UK’s health and social care systems ever seen, and exacerbated established pressures further, it has completely changed the healthcare monitoring landscape, arguably for the better.

More people than ever before are beginning to understand the ability of healthcare monitoring to provide 24 hour support, personalised approaches and an emergency response. Many service providers have invested in TECS to move towards a more person-centred and remote style of care delivery as a result of COVID-19, and this will only increase as we move forward.

 

Available technology

There is a significant range of technology available to support older people to age-in-place safely.

At-home monitoring systems, including alarms and telecare, have long been used to keep people safe and independent, and can support the provision of proactive and person-centred care. Latest solutions use advanced AI to detect whether someone’s health could be about to deteriorate, spot a potentially undiagnosed condition, or help them resolve an immediate social care need.

What we term the ‘care journey’ is now evolving rapidly beyond reactive calls for help and proactive steps such as reminding someone to make sure they get their flu jab.

Predictive services allow us to see whether a person is at risk by using sensors in their home and applying rule-based AI decision-making. A sensor might detect someone is going to the toilet more frequently, or hadn’t opened the curtains that day, so the system would then suggest a visit to the doctor or prompt a call from a support worker.

At Tunstall we are working towards an intelligent care model, Cognitive Care, that identifies risk using data from different sensors, along with text and audio entries from a service user or their caregiver.

For more information on how TECS can be used to help seniors age in place safely, visit www.tunstall.co.uk

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