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Assistive technology at home

Telecare and GPS tracking devices

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Telecare and GPS tracking devices

Explore the growing number of assistive technology and telecare systems that can help if you’re having difficulty at home.

 

From gadgets that text or page you when your relative presses an alarm button, through to sophisticated telecare systems that can alert a monitoring centre when sensors in your home detect that you're in trouble, there's a wide range of options that can be tailored to a person's individual needs.

Most telecare devices work using sensors and a base unit. The base unit is connected to the telephone landline and power socket, and receives signals from personal sensors and sensors positioned around your home. It then transmits to the monitoring centre/assigned carer using radio signals.

There are even monitoring systems that allow you to see how a relative is doing when they live hundreds of miles away (without using cameras), and GPS tracking systems that can tell you exactly where your relative with memory loss is if they get lost.

To help shine a light on some of the best assistive technology and telecare systems, we asked a panel of assistive-technology experts to chose and review range of systems - and their verdict on each is presented in the table below.

Only logged-in Which? members can view our full verdicts below. If you're not yet a member, take a £1 Which? trial to get instant access.

Assistive technology - telecare, monitoring and GPS tracker systems
Name of product Price What is it? Who is it for? Our verdict

Buddi GPS personal location tracker and fall detector

Buddi

Clip and wristband set (purchase + service plan): £299 + £6/week; Lease service plan: £12/week (clip-only cheaper) A GPS personal location tracker and fall detector. The person can call for assistance or - if they travel outside their pre-set ‘safe zone’ while out - it will alert the call centre monitoring service or carer, and the system can locate them, so they can be collected. People who are prone to getting lost, falling or having medical emergencies when out. Subscriber only content

Canary activity-monitoring system

Canary

Buy £270 + £15/month monitoring; Rent from £36/month One of the activity-monitoring systems allowing people to check on relatives living elsewhere. It collects information on activity via sensors in rooms and on doors – for example, how often they use the kitchen or get up at night. It can alert you to problems, such as the person not moving in the morning, via a text or email. Visitors – such as paid home carers – can also use swipe cards when arriving and leaving. People with dementia or who are frail and cannot communicate how they are. Subscriber only content

Envirotxt temperature monitor

Envirotxt

£99 A small plug-in unit with a Sim card monitors the temperature in a frail relative's home and alerts you by text if the temperature rises or drops outside pre-set limits or if there's a mains power failure. A frail relative who could mistakenly turn off or unplug the heating system, or have a power cut. Subscriber only content

Lifemax Home Safety Alert Mark II

Lifemax Home Safety Alert

£49 A wireless battery-operated, home pager alert system. Includes a base station receiver and two transmitter pendants with both a call and a panic button (for emergencies) with a range up to 30 metres. You could keep one pager permanently in, say, the bathroom. Families caring for a sick or disabled relative at home. Subscriber only content

pendant alarm

Telecare system

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Telecare systems monitor vulnerable people and can send alerts when help is needed. At its most basic, telecare enables a person to call for help by pressing an alarm button on a watch or pendant. More intelligent pendants can also sense a fall. Both alert a call centre to organise help. Other sensors around a home can flag risks, such as someone not returning to bed within a pre-set time. Sensors can include:

  • smoke/heat sensors
  • bed exit/occupancy sensors (underneath mattress)
  • flood detectors
  • door-exit sensors
  • natural gas detector
  • carbon monoxide detector
People who can’t monitor or respond to risks - such as fire or falling - themselves. Subscriber only content
Table notes: All prices include VAT, unless otherwise specified. Enquire if delivery costs are additional as this varies.

Telecare assessment

To find out which type of telecare devices will be best for you, you'll need to have an assessment with an expert. This is a collaborative process designed to work out which systems will suit your specific needs, in order to design an individual telecare package.

Costs vary depending on the individual package, with typical costs averaging around £80 to £200 a month for round-the-clock monitoring. For information on how to arrange an assessment and sources of financial assistance, visit Which? Elderly Care.

If you install a telecare device, it's also a good idea to get a key safe fixed to the outside of your home, in case someone needs to enter the house in an emergency.

Remember, telecare systems are not fail-safe and correct maintenance of products – including checking the batteries regularly – is vital.

Telehealth devices

Telehealth devices monitor your physiological activity remotely, transmitting the readings to a healthcare professional in a hospital or help centre, who then decides when or if intervention is needed.

These devices are useful if you have a heart condition or hypertension, as well as if you have chronic asthma, diabetes, lung problems or epilepsy.