Medacs Healthcare

NOV 28/2014

How can elderly people benefit from assistive technology?

Older people are often taken into care homes because they fall into ill health and they can no longer look after themselves on their own. However, assistive technology can help the elderly maintain their health and stay in their own homes for as long as possible, a new report suggests.

The first-ever survey of directors of adult social services' (DASS) use of tele-healthcare indicates that there is a growing consent that the older generation could be the demographic who are most likely to benefit from this type of technology. Implementing this as part of their care services could help protect a wide range of vulnerable people, the report claims.

According to the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) report, the majority (70 per cent) of DASSs believe older people will be some of the greatest beneficiaries of assistive technology. This was significantly above other groups of vulnerable people, with 41 per cent of respondents ranking those with learning disabilities either first or second and 37 per cent stated that carers would benefit most from tele-healthcare.

The survey found that this was largely because of the multi-faceted nature of older people’s care, which made technology such a boost to them. 

However, the report found that many local authorities do not have assistive technology, with just 61 per cent of them being able to provide this to elderly patients. The same percentage of authorities were equipped with multi-sensory telecare, while councils have provided more than 4,400 was community alarm systems to support vulnerable people.

Linda Sanders, assistive technology lead at ADASS, said the study's findings will help people working in the adult services to "generate further momentum locally, to help understand needs, and decide what to focus on nationally".

The study found that more than a quarter of councils (26 per cent) have considered using Skype to help support their clients, while three per cent are currently using the video calling tool.  Although this shows that plenty of local authorities are looking at other tools to help them deliver services, 71 per cent have not yet looked at the possibilities.

Indicating that finance may be behind this behaviour, the report highlighted that personal budgets are being used to fund telecare in nearly a third (32 per cent) of councils. It found that 12 per cent of local authorities are using social media for older people, and a further 48 per cent are considering it.

Out of the respondents, most felt that having more evidence to support assistive technologies would improve their uptake. 

David Pearson, president of ADASS, said: “This is an important survey which not only helps establish a national picture of the maturity of services but also will support members generate further momentum in realising the potential for assistive technology.

“What is clear from the results is that we are a sector undergoing change, with a number of responses being qualified by comments relating to service reorganisation and Better Care Fund implementation planning. We hope our investment in resources to support members with their telecare service development can now be focused in the areas that make the most difference.” 

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