What is telecare?
Telecare systems are designed to give a warning to a call centre or carer if there is a problem in risk areas such as a fall, inactivity or fire, floods and gas leaks. These activity-monitoring systems are useful for people to check on relatives living elsewhere. They can be tailored to suit the needs of the individual and are especially valuable for people with dementia.
There are a range of different products available to buy and install, including Canary Care, 3rings Plug, Envirotxt and Lifemax Friends & Family Home Safety Alert.
Canary Care is listed as a recommended buy in the Which? reviews for memory aids for dementia. This system logs activity using sensors in rooms and on doors – for example, how often a person uses the kitchen or gets 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.
What telecare services are available?
The range of sensors that could be provided by most telecare services include:
- fall detectors
- bed or chair occupancy sensors
- movement detector
- flood detector
- property exit sensors
- incontinence alert
- smoke detector
- heat/temperature analyser
- gas detector
- nocturnal epileptic seizure detector
- hypothermia alert
- medication dispensers
- door opening sensors (to detect someone leaving the property, or a door left open).
Installing a telecare system
Each telecare system generally consists of a base unit and a range of sensors that are placed around the home. The base unit is linked to a monitoring centre or carer through a landline telephone (or to a mobile phone, if a landline isn’t available). It’s sometimes referred to as a lifeline unit.
Not everyone would necessarily use all the sensors, but they can all usually be provided on one system. Setting up a base unit is straightforward and it just needs a power point close to the telephone socket.
The sensors are then installed at various points in the home by an installer, following a conversation with you and/or a family member to establish how best to programme the base unit and sensors to meet your lifestyle and needs.
If a problem occurs and is detected by the sensor, the base unit triggers an alarm via the landline to a call centre or to the pager or mobile phone of a carer.
- Call centres are by far the most common option for home users of telecare, their primary advantage being that a call centre is staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
- Alerting a carer is used sometimes in care homes, or if there’s a family carer or careworker living with you. It’s suitable for supporting a partner, but would only be practical if the nominated carer(s) or relative(s) were able to respond at any time of day or night and on any day of the year.
Responding to telecare
Assuming that the telecare system is monitored by a call centre, the following is an overview of what might happen if an alarm is triggered by one of the telecare sensors:
- When an alarm is received by the call centre, the call centre operator will look at the agreed procedure to follow for the individual in question, and based on which sensor has triggered the alert.
- The action(s) they then take will vary. For example, if the alert has come from a smoke detector, the first action will almost certainly be to call the local fire brigade.
- In another example, if the alert has come from a flood detector in the bathroom, the operator might decide to call your family member and ask if they’re aware that the bath is overflowing. The telecare system’s base unit has the ability to provide a two-way communication channel; it contains a loud speaker, so the operator’s voice will carry over long distances. Even if the person at home has fallen in an upstairs bedroom, they should be able to speak to the call centre directly (the operating distance of the communication function is normally checked when the system is first installed).
- If further help is needed, the operator could call a nearby relative or neighbour.
However, there are other situations where it wouldn’t be appropriate for the call centre to be alerted. For example, if your bedsheets needed changing during the night, it would be more appropriate for a message to be sent to a relative or carer who lives with, or near to, you.
If you’re interested in finding out more about a telecare system, arrange an assessment with an expert. It’s important that you work together to establish what’s best for your needs.
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