Natasha Salway is the TEC Projects Manager at Oysta Technology. The Northants company’s technology-enabled care solutions help people live independently for longer.
An 18-year veteran of the adult social care industry, Natasha has significant on-the-ground experience of working with service-users and seeing Oysta’s technology in action.
“If you ask anyone about the type of technology that is available to help vulnerable people, even some people within health and social care will talk only about pendant alarm buttons and pull cords,” Natasha says.
“That’s quite surprising in this day and age because there is so much other technology out there. It has moved along quite a lot.”
Natasha believes that technology should ‘protect the person and not the home’ by giving the individual the freedom to exercise, shop and socialise.
Oysta supports everyone from single home-owners to those living in supported accommodation.
Whatever their living situation, ‘vulnerable independent people’ or ‘VIPs’ value their freedom, Natasha says.
But it’s not just older people who benefit from these new technologies.
“The first client that I ever gave an Oysta device to was actually a lady in her early 20s who was suffering with seizures,” Natasha says.
“She was a really sociable person. She wanted to go on dates, see her friends and go to karaoke.
“But because her risk of a seizure was so high, a carer always had to go along with her, which kind of cramped her style.
“We provided her with an Oysta device.
“And now if she does have a seizure when she’s out walking somewhere or between places, the fall detector will alert her carers who are always within around five miles of where she is.
“It’s enabled her to have that quality of life without compromising her safety.”
Oysta offers a range of devices to appeal to the lifestyles and preferences of its VIPs. All are portable, with roaming SIMs and GPS to ensure security, wherever the individual goes.
The devices are connected to Oysta’s IntelliCare™ platform, with the option of Alarm Response Centre monitoring.
The Pearl II is a hybrid of a mobile phone and alarm, with fall detection, two-way voice calls and audio reminders.
Meanwhile, the discreet Oysta watch is ‘very popular, because it doesn’t label people as having that extra need,” Natasha says.
“We are also going one step further now, where we’ve created an app to go on an existing mobile phone,” Natasha adds.
“We are incorporating somebody’s own technology and giving it an SOS button that can be discretely put somewhere. So that, again, people don’t stand out as being different and having that additional need.”
The provision of Oysta’s technology has an impact beyond the lives and experiences of its VIPs.
Friends, family, formal and informal carers all benefit from the enhanced connectivity Oysta offers.
One major benefactor is the NHS, Natasha says.
Real time data on an individual’s location means that in the event of a fall, the ambulance crew can find the individual straight away.
This reduces the amount of time they are on the floor where their condition could deteriorate.
There are cost benefits, too.
“You’re reducing the need for conveyance to hospital, so you can take away that cost. But then you’re also reducing the need for A&E triage, a hospital bed and aftercare.
“So the actual cost savings just from one fall really can be thousands of pounds, which really isn’t taken into consideration enough, I don’t think.
“All by enabling somebody to stay at home longer by providing them with one little device.”
The technology may have come a long way since the days of pull cords and pendant alarms. But Natasha believes that there are even bigger things to come.
From electric car chargers to Alexa, our homes are increasingly digital. Digital care solutions are a natural extension of this.
With innovations like AI, the intervention can happen sooner, preventing decline and maximising outcomes.
“That is definitely where the industry is going. But I believe it needs to be adopted earlier,” Natasha says.
“The earlier the technology is adopted, the better the outcome for the individual and the more preventative we can be about their care.
“At the end of the day, if somebody does get diagnosed with a debilitating condition, it is only going to get worse. We’re not going to be able to stop it.
“But what we can do with technology is help them manage it a little bit better so that they can have that quality of life for longer.”
This is an excerpt from our Special Report – Innovations for an Ageing Population