What are the benefits for carers of using technology?
Health and care technology can help improve the safety of your home, reducing the stress associated with leaving the person you care for at home alone for any length of time, whilst providing independence for you and the person you are looking after. There are many practical and digital technologies that can help to improve the general quality of life for both you and the person you care for by addressing issues that have a negative impact. Technology that ensure a person’s safety can help them to gain some independence and allow you more freedom to do things away from them without worrying or rushing back. Communications technology can help you to keep appointments with health professionals and maintain relationships with friends and family. Click on the pictures below to see some examples.
What do we mean by technology?
Technology doesn’t have to mean a smart phone or tablet computer. There are a number of technology aids available to help you in your caring role that do not rely on you having your own computer or access to the internet.
Physical/practical technology aids This can mean anything from an electric wheelchair to a video baby monitor. Practical technology aids are products and devices that can be purchased or installed to assist the person you care for and support you in your caring role. There are many of these that are developed for specific reasons as well as generic products that can be adapted to suit your particular situation.
Technology services Technology services are designed to facilitate the use of technology by users, such as Telcare and Telehealth (see Derek on previous page). Telecare is an example of a technology service which provides a 24 hour monitoring system that can help keep you and the person you care for safe in your home. Telecare equipment is linked to a telephone alarm unit which, when activated, automatically generates an alarm call to a monitoring centre so that an emergency response can be raised any time of day. The unit has an in-built microphone and a powerful loud speaker so that you can be heard from a distance. Telecare can also provide other sensors to give early warning of natural gas, smoke, extreme heat, flood, a fall or whether someone has left the property or managed to get in/out of bed safely.
Digital and computer Technology This includes such things as mobile or smartphones, laptop and tablet computers, smart TVs and the apps (applications) they run. Digital technology has revolutionised the way we live our lives and communicate. Shopping, banking, booking a holiday, researching services, completing registrations or applications and sending information are all examples of activities that can be carried out from the comfort of your own home via the internet. Instead of shops and businesses there are websites. Social clubs have been transformed into social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Research is conducted on Google rather than in a library and rather than using a phone to speak to friends and family you can skype them, watching them through a computer screen. The digital world is as big as the physical and there are some very useful products and services that can be implemented to help support you in your caring role. Examples include tracking and monitoring devices to give you peace of mind when you are not with the person you care for, automated prompts and reminders to help with taking medicine regularly or remembering to attend appointments, locator devices, communication aids and safety devices.
A word on Apps
With the rise of Tablet computers and smartphones, the use of apps is now commonplace. An app (short for application) is a piece of software that you can download onto your smartphone or tablet computer that allows you to complete specific tasks. They are produced by many different people/organisations. Some are free to download, others you pay for and both of these may or may not have in-app purchase options. Availability and options will also vary depending on the operating system you have on your smartphone or tablet (iphone, Android or windows). There are plenty of websites reviewing apps so you needn’t buy anything before you have read about other users’ experiences. We have listed just a few apps that may be of use to some carers. This is in no way an endorsement of how these apps function, or their suitability over other apps, and it should be recognised that new apps are regularly developed and released.
How do I start using technology?
Consider carefully what you want to achieve and spend some time speaking with different people, such as an Occupational therapist, your GP or Social Services to work out which technology option will suit your needs best. Some providers, such as Telecare may offer a trial period free of charge or at a reduced cost. Give yourself time to get used to using your new technology solution so that you can feel comfortable and confident before adding anything else. It may be tempting to try and fix all your problems at once but this may prove difficult to manage. There are lots of workshops on offer in the borough with reference to using the internet to access information and services, or getting to grips with tablet or laptop computers and smart phones. At Richmond Carers Centre we have a full programme of Carers workshops that regularly includes computer-based topics such as online banking or shopping and staying safe online. The Library Service and Age UK also regularly run free IT workshops for residents and carers in Richmond Borough.
Who can help me?
Where can I go to use a computer/the internet if I don’t own a computer?
The Library Service There are more than 150 computers available for public use across Richmond Borough’s libraries. You can book time on a computer by calling or visiting or your local library. Once you have been given a card and PIN you will be able to login to a booking page online and book any future computer time that way if you prefer.
Castelnau Community Centre (7 Stillingfleet Road, Barnes, SW13 9AQ) has 8 computers available for public use Monday to Friday 9am-5pm. The IT suite is through the front door on the left and any changes to timings are posted on the door of the IT suite. For more information call 020 8741 0909 or visit www.castelnaucentreproject.co.uk
The Civic Centre Atrium (44 York Street, Twickenham, TW1 3BZ) has two computers available for public use Monday to Thursday 9am to 5.15pm and 9am to 5pm on Fridays. These computers only allow you to access the www.richmond.gov.uk website.
Are there any online courses I can access for self-led learning?
Learn My Way is a website full of free online courses for IT beginners. The courses are aimed at helping you develop your digital skills and start making the most of the online world. Some of the easy to follow courses will help you get to grips with the basics when using your PC, laptop or device. Other courses focus on using the internet to help you find a job, improve your health and manage your money.
E-Learning by Carers UK (working with embrace-learning) is a suite of e-learning courses to support carers and people working with carers. These courses will deliver Carers UK’s expertise directly to your PC or laptop, giving you access in your own time to a range of resources.
Finding the money to purchase technology solutions
Not all technology solutions need to be expensive but it is important to consider all the costs associated with using technology, which may extend beyond the purchase price or setup. Examples would include maintenance or insurance policies for purchased equipment, software packages, programmes, apps or subscription fees for items such as laptop or tablet computers and smartphones, and associated services costs, such as a Telecare home monitoring system. It may be possible to access certain health and care technology through an assessment for the person you are caring for, which could have a beneficial impact for you both and possibly the wider family.
If a local authority needs assessment has concluded that the person you care for requires certain equipment, it may be provided free of charge. Minor adaptations costing £1,000 or less, including the purchase price and installation, are also provided free of charge, although the local authority may charge for minor adaptations above the cost of £1,000. Larger and more expensive technology items may also be classed as adaptations, but these will come under the responsibility of the housing department at the local authority and are provided through the Disabled Facilities Grants (https://www.gov.uk/disabled-facilities-grants). You will need to call the Access team on 020 8891 7971 to arrange for an occupational therapist to assess you.
Helpful Sources of Information
The majority of these resources are now online but you may be able to request a print copy from the provider if you are not able to print one yourself. You may also be able to print online guides at your local library.
Learn my way, free online courses for IT beginners
Carers UK technology guide – there is a link at the bottom of the page. Call Carers UK on 0808 808 7777
Alzheimer’s Society Assistive technology factsheet Call Alzheimer’s Society Richmond on 020 8611 6800
Age UK website – using technology for independence Call Age UK Richmond 020 8878 3073