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Assistive Technology Working with You

Assistive Technology. It can work for you and yours…helping people stay independent

A couple of years ago I worked as a Community Care Manager in Social Services, and one of the most frequent requests for advice were from people who had suspicions that their elderly loved ones were at risk, especially at night because you cannot always be there 24/7. Suspicions that loved ones are wandering around the house at night or even worse, wandering outside can be very alarming. We advocated the use of assistive technology.

Small, silly suspicions, like mud on their slippers, its appearance shrugged off and innocently denied. Things not left where they were the night before, and doors unlocked or left open, keys in the wrong place or lost, even half eaten food with your loved one having no recollection of how it’s appeared in the middle of the garden!

What can you do?

You have suspicions though at this stage they are only suspicions. You have tried to talk to your loved one but when the subject is broached, this has been normally met with a bewildered look or perplexed irritability and possibly denial.


Like your parents worried about things when you were young, your own imagination goes into overdrive…. what happens if they leave the kettle to boil dry, or they turn the gas on without lighting the stove, or they have wandered alone out into the street!! These are all unimaginable scenarios that will trouble you in the early hours of the night. Hopefully none of them will happen, but it’s that niggling worry that won’t give you peace of mind.

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Assistive technology

Assistive technology is the answer to many of these issues.

There are well-known pendants that we are familiar with that many people wear daily, these are known as Lifeline alarms. These are Lifelines and are not intrusive, though the emphasis is for the individual to take responsibility and wear this all the time or have it within easy reach, but what if a loved one does not have the capacity to remember?

What else can I use?

There are bed sensors, door and window sensors (threshold sensors), chair sensors or pressure mats on the floor for people who are prone to wandering/falling.

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A habit of wandering!

The family of Mrs P contacted us to say that they had concerns that their mother was getting up at night and wandering although she had no recollection. Worried about her safety and wanted to know what she did, Mrs P was very tired during the day, so to eliminate any other issues as to her tiredness and to see just how many times she got up during the night we put in ‘threshold sensors’, this allowed us to look at where she wandered during the night, at what time and frequency. Viewing the results, it appeared that she was a real ‘nocturnal’ lady. She would busy herself crossing her bedroom and kitchen threshold more than 20 times.

GPS tracking

Mr J had a diagnosis of dementia and habit of wandering, he needed a GPS locator to track where he was, but he wouldn’t always remember to take his mobile phone locator with him when he went out. Always wearing the same pair of shoes, a special item was ordered, a GPS locator called ‘Smart Sole’ which was fitted into the sole of his shoe, that tracked him if he got lost, enabling him to return to his home safely.

Heat detectors

Keeping people safe through assistive technology is easy and keeps individuals safe and independently living at home for as long as possible. It’s possible to lease especially sensitive smoke alarms, extreme temperature sensors, carbon monoxide detectors and heat and flood detectors – so no more issues with leaving that bath running! There are passive infra-red sensors, which are electronic devices, that are used to detect motion of an infrared emitting source, usually a human body. All objects, living or not, whose temperature is anything above absolute zero emit infrared radiation.

Fall sensors

Falling is the most common cause of admission to hospital for the over 65s. In fact, 1 in 3 people over 65 fall each year, which rises to 50% if you are over 80. If your loved one is unsteady or is considered at risk of falls, then a fall alarm would be worth considering. Working along the same principle as the pendant, this alarm has a built-in accelerometer which detects that you have fallen.

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Medication dispensers ensure the correct dose at the correct time. The combination of both an audio and visual alarm ensures users access their correct dosage of medication, at the appropriate time, whilst also keeping other pills inaccessible. The features of these electronic pill dispenser make it very popular for people with cognitive loss, however, it’s also enjoyed success as an Automatic Pill Dispenser for elderly individuals whose memory may not be as strong as it once was.


This is not Big Brother

Assistive technology does not film you and is not intrusive it just monitors and detects movement within the home.

Asking for a ‘supported assessment’ which everyone is entitled to, is easy, this can be done on your loved one’s behalf or they can self-refer. Your finances will be assessed and if you meet the criteria and it is agreed that help is needed then they will be told how much the Local Authority will contribute to their care and how much they will need to pay. A support plan is then developed. If they are over the financial threshold criteria of £23,250 then they will be considered not eligible for financial support, and you should be signposted to services that can help and advise.

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If your loved one has been in hospital, they may receive a service called Reablement, which is an assessment tool covering up to six weeks support at home, this will also help decide what help is needed.

Depending on an individual’s care needs and financial support, there are providers in Dorset that offer assistive technology to support and or assess. Mi-guardian, part of the Millbrook Health Care group, is the approved provider for Dorset County Council, and referrers can be occupational therapists and social workers etc. They offer an 8-week free trial after which the client pays £3.50 a week for the lifeline unit and pendant and any sensors ordered by DCC is funded by DCC.  Direct referrals from service users are eligible for the 8-week free trial however sensors are individually priced and can be added any time in the future.

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