At the end of 2008, Aberdeenshire Council issued a report on its experience with telecare. For anyone interested in this area, (and that should be a lot more than currently are showing interest), this is one of the best descriptions of the technology, the reality of deploying it and the resulting benefits that you’re likely to come across. The key finding is that it works. What makes this trial and the results so impressive is the way they’ve concentrated on the basics, using simple devices to help make people’s lives easier.
One of the most impressive aspects of this trial and report is that it doesn’t take the view that telecare will necessarily make people better. Instead it aims to use telecare in its Assisted Living form to improve the quality of life for those who need support. That also benefits those who support them, whether that be external services, family members or a partner. In this report, that benefit is clearly brought out, with carers and relatives acknowledging the advantages to themselves as well as the patient. Although we’re often sold telecare as a way of cutting costs by improving health, keeping people independent and safe can provide equal savings. At the end of the trial none of the participants felt that telecare had improved their health. However, 80% of them said they felt safer at home and 70% felt more independent.
The follow-on saving from improvement in independence comes from earlier discharges after hospital treatment and reduced or delayed admissions to care homes, along with a reduction in sleepovers and check visits. Intriguingly, despite the latter reduction, none of the trial felt more lonely – an interesting finding, as it is often brought up as a fear that telecare will isolate people.
The report is available for download at Aberdeen Council’s website. I encourage everyone involved in telecare to read it. The figures and analysis are convincing, but perhaps the most powerful points come from those involved, commenting on their personal experience:
“It is great, my wife can do so much more for herself…”
“I have never, in nine years, seem his carer so relaxed. She can now watch TV in the evening, while J is in full control of his own life.”
“I am less anxious and more confident when I get up through the night. I think my daughter is less worried about me because she knows I am safe.”
This report provides an overwhelming argument for telecare as a way to support the ageing generation, promoting independence and helping families and carers to share the burden. It’s also totally honest abut the issues and problems in deploying it, both in practical terms of product design and the changes that telecare involve for all parties involved. Now we need to take the results of that experience, learn from it and roll it out on a much wider basis.