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The pros and cons of using assistive technology

Assistive technology can help you live with greater freedom and independence, but it shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for one-to-one contact and support.
4 min read
In this article
Pros and cons of assistive technology Getting the balance right Care and maintenance issues 

Pros and cons of assistive technology

Assistive technology and telecare products aren’t without their critics. Some people see this type of technology as an invasion of privacy, while others fear that it could result in less human contact. For example, a pill dispenser that reminds someone to take their tablets could replace a home care worker popping in.

On the other hand, when used appropriately the technology can help someone to live with greater freedom and independence. It can also enable family members and friends to become more proactively involved in caring for a loved one.

Here are some of the key pros and cons to consider before deciding whether assistive technology is the right solution for your situation.

Pros

Checklist (ticks)
  • Assistive technology can monitor the safety of a vulnerable person in their own home 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – providing peace of mind both for themselves and their family. This can be particularly beneficial when having professional carers on hand day and night is not desirable or affordable. 

  • It can be good way to supplement other care and support arrangements.

  • The technology is increasingly available to buy yourself, and there are also options that may be offered by your local council. 

  • It can allow family members or friends to take a positive role in a loved one’s home care, even if they don’t live nearby. For example, you can see how your relative is coping via monitoring technology and your computer, allowing you to phone them at just the right time.

  • Personal alarms and telecare can help to ensure a quicker response if there is a serious problem. For incidents such as a fall or a medical emergency like a stroke, a quicker response can help to lessen the long-term adverse effects of the incident.

  • Some assistive technology can be incorporated into everyday devices to support independent living – for example, accessible mobile phones, specially adapted remote controls or voice-activated smart home hubs.

  • Some telecare technology collects data to ‘learn’ about the user’s behaviour and routine. This can help to identify potential problems sooner by spotting changes to someone’s routine, and thus give an early warning.

  • In some cases, technology can be a more cost-effective option than paying for regular care. Read our tips on choosing and buying assistive technology.

Cons

Checklist (crosses)
  • The technology can seem overly complex to some people, and this may discourage them from making best use of it. 
  • Some people will be uncomfortable with the idea of been monitored in their own home – whether this involves sensors, cameras or other gadgets.
  • This type of technology also raises questions of privacy, especially if someone has not been given an opportunity to consent to its use, or if they’re unable to do so due to a lack of mental capacity
  • Relying on technology to keep track of an older person could lead to them becoming more isolated if it is used as a replacement for personal visits.
  • It may affect your needs assessment if you replace existing support with a technology solution.

Getting the balance right

Assistive technology can be a valuable ingredient in helping people to stay living at home, even if they are experiencing memory problems or frailty. But it should rarely be seen on its own as the only solution. It’s not a replacement for one-to-one contact and support, and shouldn’t make you feel more isolated or abandoned. Ideally the technology should be just one part of a wider overall care plan.

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Care and maintenance issues 

Like all technology products, there are some practical considerations to be aware of regarding the upkeep of assistive devices.

Many assistive technology products are either fully or partly battery powered. In addition, most telecare systems require either a working landline phone or a broadband internet connection. 

If you have a telecare package, you won’t normally need to change the batteries yourself – this will be done by the telecare provider, either through routine maintenance visits or through the equipment automatically signalling to the help centre when batteries are low. Batteries for telecare products often last for more than a year. However, if you suspect a fault with your equipment, you’ll need to call the helpline number, which should be given to you when you sign up to a telecare package. 

For standalone assistive technology products, it’s important to check the functioning and battery power of your devices yourself, ideally monthly.

Further reading

Assistive technology

Today there are many clever gadgets and tools available to help older people stay safe and independent at home.

Personal alarms

Read about how personal alarms can help older people feel safer at home and remain independent for longer.

Telecare

Telecare systems make use of the latest technology to help people in later life continue to live independently at home.

Last updated: 28 Jun 2019