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Norfolk – we have the technology

Assistive Technology (AT) can help with day to day living tasks in all sorts of ways. Age Space Norfolk went to Virgin Lounge in Norwich to hear what the AT Team at Norfolk County Council has to offer.

It’s all part and parcel of Norfolk County Council service to provide support for people to stay at home. But did you know that there is a range of electronic gadgets called Assistive Technology that can help an elderly parent live independently in their own home? And that many of them are available on free loan?  This specific service is for adults living in their own homes and involves the AT team carrying out an assessment to see if your parent would benefit from having any electronic gadgets that would help them stay independent and/or provide support for their carers. The assessment is free and many of the gadgets are available on free loan.

Norfolk County Council Services

Maria Rainbird from Norfolk County Council Adult Social Services went through the type of help at hand, including community ‘pendant’ alarms which involve a one-off initial cost and an ongoing fee. Although Maria makes the point: ‘For some people that is all they need.’  There are half a dozen community alarm services across Norfolk all of which provide a 24-hour, year round monitoring and response service for older people and adults who are vulnerable or at risk.

GPS tracking for wanderers

Then there are GPS location devices which use a mobile network to raise an alert to a carer or monitoring centre. Perhaps the most well-known is the ‘buddi’ GPS device – its 24hr monitoring service can find information about your location.  Alternatively there is the Pebbell mini GPS Tracker, which is for use at home – although due to its roaming SIM, it can also be used when you’re out and about making sure you have round the clock help. Maria says: ‘As we know in Norfolk it’s very patchy with mobile phone network coverage – so that can work really well.’

She gives an example of the type of person it could help: ‘Someone who is more than able to walk the dogs but who may lose their way.’ SMS text commands get the exact location and up to three emergency contacts can be programmed in.

Some of the gadgets are simple but effective, including battery operated motion sensor night lights. She explains: ‘The risk of falls at night is greater than in the day but a lot of people won’t put the bathroom light on at night because the fan comes on.’  Or else there are motion activated memo reminders where you can record a memo for playback, switch the movement sensor on, and when a person walks into the detection beam the recorded voice message is played back.

Chair and Bed Sensors

Chair and bed sensors – which come with pagers – can also prove helpful. ‘If you needed to know someone was out of their chair for longer than half an hour, it would trigger a call,’ explains Maria.  ‘The bed sensor works in exactly the same way, if you’ve got concerns about someone at night getting up and a high risk of falls.’ Another useful gadget for people living with dementia, are calendar and day clocks.

Maria says that the AT team can also offer Just checking, an activity monitoring system, for six weeks which creates a clear summary of daily living activity that can be viewed securely online, thanks to discreet wireless motion sensors and a plug-in controller.  She gave an example: ‘If someone has concerns about someone being up all night and sleeping all day this could show if they are right.’  And she adds: ‘People have found it so helpful they’ve contacted the company and put it in place permanently.’

At the end of the session she says: ‘If you ever come across gadgets and gizmos that work really well for you, we would like to hear from you.’

Contact the Norfolk County Council’s Customer Services Centre on 0344 800 8020 and ask for a referral to the Assistive Technology team.

Visit Norfolk County Council website for further information.