Talking Technology Enabled Care – Say What?

Shockingly, the last 12 months of the pandemic have revealed the vulnerability of older people. For those of us entrenched in the elderly care sector, this is not a new phenomenon. Seemingly we needed a national crisis for it to get the attention it deserves. Still, we wait (im)patiently for Boris’ revolutionary social care plan (maybe he should look to President Biden for some inspiration). Thankfully, the tech sector has not been sitting on their laurels and have continued to push the boundaries – finding new ways that ‘we’, the family, can play a more active part in our elderly relatives’ care.

It is widely agreed that most older people would prefer to remain living independently, safely and cost effectively at home. There are many technology solutions out there – unfortunately, there is no single consensus on what to call these solutions. We have produced a useful glossary at the end of this feature to help get you started. 

The History of Technology Enabled Care

Over the last 50 years, telecare has evolved from the basic personal pendant alarm, designed to make calls in an emergency to discreet watches with inbuilt GPS trackers, and fall detection linked to 24/7 monitoring centres. We have now moved into the next generation of smart devices for elderly care: passive sensors that can be placed discreetly around the house to monitor movement and automatically raise an alarm if there’s a problem.

Up until now, the focus has been on raising the alarm in emergency situations. But, similar to the healthcare evolution, attention is now turning towards prevention. Enter stage left – Anthropos (the brains behind ‘Hive’) – who have spent seven years developing their ‘Connected Care’ system which takes home monitoring to the next level.

The newly-coined term, ‘Connected Care’ not only raises the alarm in a crisis but uses intelligent remote monitoring to better understand the patterns of daily routines and predict potential problems in advance. It then ‘connects’ all the people involved, from health professionals to family and social care providers, bridging the communication gap with useful insights which will undoubtedly improve the care provided.

The Cost of Care

As with all tech systems, the cost of home care monitoring varies widely, from £180 for a basic personal alarm annual monitoring package to nearly £1400 for an all-singing-and-dancing ‘Connected Care’ annual package. Not to be sniffed at, as even at the top end, it is wildly less expensive than the cost of a carer or a care home.

Good old-fashioned capitalism combined with an increasingly ageing population will continue to drive technological advancements and lower the entry price point for the more advanced packages, I’m sure.

The Language of Care

However, our main concern at the moment is to do with language, there doesn’t seem to be one clear definition of what people need to ask for.

Personal Alarms, Telecare (caring from a distance in case you didn’t know), Home Monitoring Systems, Technology Enabled Care, Connected Care – the language hasn’t translated well to the public domain which leaves poor Mrs Jones from Chester bamboozled when trying to search for an elderly care solution for her mum.

"It is easy to see how older people and their families can be confused by all of the different terminology in the market. What we need are simple terms that will make it easier for families to know what to look for and how to judge one technology against another. Right now, the easiest thing to do is to think about the concerns you have for an older loved one and then ask if the technology can help with that. For example, if you were worried that an older relative wasn’t eating and drinking properly, ask if the technology can help you keep an eye on their hydration and nutrition when you are not there."

Paul Berney, Chief Marketing Officer at Anthropos

There are approximately 12 million people over the age of 65 living in the UK of which 3.8 million live alone. The most up to date figures estimate that 1.8 million people in the UK are using some form of technology enabled care. For something which is truly a cost-effective solution and now thanks to Anthropos a preventative tool for elderly care, why are the numbers not greater?

It could be the cost but perhaps it could also be that people don’t know what to search for?

It makes political, practical and financial sense to start working towards a shared language and positive narrative around technology enabled care. The tech and care sectors need to work together to agree on a consumer-friendly terminology and alongside the government raise awareness to the positive benefits of technology enabled care (or whatever we call it) to make it an empowering step for the elderly and their families.

At the very simplest level, we need to help Mrs Jones know what to type into Google.

Technology Enabled Care Glossary

One of the first steps towards a consumer-friendly arena of technology enabled care is greater clarity. This glossary of terms should help you to understand the key terms.

1st-Generation Personal Alarm

A wearable alarm that a user must press in order to request help in an emergency. Only works when in range of the receiver in the home. 

Next-generation Personal Alarm

A wearable alarm that can either be user-activated or can automatically detect falls. Works both in the home and when out. Can also be fitted with GPS for wanderers.

Assistive Technology

This refers to products or systems that support and assist individuals with disabilities, restricted mobility or other impairments to carry out functions that would otherwise be difficult or impossible.

Home Monitoring

A product or service that monitors the home environment, via discreet sensors, which collect activity-related data and alert family or call centre to any unusual activity.

Telecare

Is an umbrella term used to describe technologies which enable people to live independently. This is term is mostly used by Personal Alarm Companies and refers to personal alarms and basic Home Monitoring services. 

Remote Monitoring

Services that are able to monitor an individual's activity and environment using sensors, in order to detect if support is required. Professional 24/7 remote monitoring is available from some home monitoring providers.

Technology Enabled Care (TEC)

An umbrella term referring to all of the different technologies that can be used to support the care of people in their homes or in residential care settings. It can include telecare, connected care and other standalone devices such as video doorbells and video calling devises.

Smart Home Monitoring

A product or service that is used for monitoring within a user’s home which can collect health, wellbeing and activity-related data. This data is then used to deliver both notifications of events (e.g. a door has been left open) and more ‘intelligent’ insights on changes in behaviour using Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning.

Connected Care

Uses Smart Home Monitoring to better understand the patterns of daily routines within behavioural context, but also to 'predict' potential health problems in advance so that care can be tailored to a user’s specific needs. It also ‘connects’ health professionals to family and social care providers, bridging the communication gap with useful behaviour insights. This combination of contextual behaviour data with preventative insight and connection of family and services will undoubtedly improve care at home.