Telecare systems are designed to send a warning to a call centre or a carer if there is a problem or an emergency in the home – such as a fall, inactivity, fire, flood or gas leak. By remotely monitoring a person’s activity and other factors in their home, the technology helps to keep them safe and independent. It also provides reassurance to family and friends who may not be able to call in as often as they would like.
Telecare devices can prevent a problem before it occurs, or send a timely alert if something does go wrong.
From that are operated by the individual if they need to call for help to sophisticated activity-monitoring systems that alert a call centre when sensors in the home detect potential problems, there’s a wide range of options that can be tailored to an individual’s needs. Many are especially valuable for people with dementia.
There are two main types of telecare system.
We look at the pros and cons of both types of system in this article.
Telecare systems can use various sensors, alarms and other gadgets that have a wide range of practical applications.
The following is a list of features that can be included as part of a telecare system. When choosing telecare products, focus on the features that will be genuinely useful and ignore anything that you don’t really need. Aim to customise the system so that it fits well with your own or your loved one’s needs.
Telecare systems with 24/7 monitoring usually consist of a base unit and a range of sensors placed around the home, or worn on the person. The base unit is linked to a monitoring centre or carer through a landline, mobile phone or internet connection. It’s sometimes referred to as a lifeline unit.
Setting up the base unit is usually straightforward and it just needs a power point close to the telephone socket. 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 configure the system to meet your lifestyle and needs.
The sensors can detect various kinds of activity in the home (movement, falls, temperature, and so on) and send signals to the base unit. Information or alerts are then transmitted to a monitoring centre operated by the service provider, or directly to a relative or carer.
Depending on your needs, you can choose a system that sends alerts to a professionally staffed monitoring centre or directly to family, friends or a carer.
Smart technology allows you to remotely control internet-connected devices around the home, and it’s increasingly also being used as a form of telecare. This enables families to monitor what’s happening in a loved one’s home using computer software or a smartphone app that receives signals from sensors in the home.
Smart devices, such as movement sensors and smart plugs are connected to a base unit using a wi-fi signal. Alerts are then sent directly to family, friends or a carer via a broadband or mobile phone connection. For example, you can receive updates about what time your loved one gets out of bed, when they leave or return to the house, or when they put the kettle on.
This type of telecare is sometimes referred to as ‘mHealth’ or ‘mobile health’. It is useful for monitoring activity in the home but may be less effective at quickly spotting and dealing with an emergency.
All of these systems include a dedicated smartphone or tablet app that gives family members or carers ongoing updates about what’s happening in their loved one’s home.
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. Make sure the key safe you purchase is police approved; it may be more expensive, but it’s likely to be more reliable.
Also, remember that telecare systems are not fail-safe and correct maintenance of products, including checking the batteries regularly, is vital.
If you need a specific care package, which might include telecare, it’s important to make an appointment with a specialist such as an occupational therapist (OT). You can ask for a telecare assessment through your local council’s social services department.
Local councils may provide telecare services as part of a care plan or they may give guidance on what type of service would work best for you. Depending on your circumstances, there may be a charge for a council-supplied service, or it could be free. Start the process by asking for a .
You could also talk to an expert about your telecare options at a local Disabled Living Centre or Independent Living Centre – search online to find out if there are any centres near you.
There’s a list at the end of this page of some of the main personal alarms and telecare companies.
If you are paying for the service yourself, you’ll usually encounter an initial setup cost followed by a monthly subscription fee to use the service. Costs vary enormously depending on the individual package.
Monitoring systems that provide information to family members via an online app can start from around £10 per month (after setup costs), while a system with professional, round-the-clock monitoring may cost from £80 to £200 a month.
Make sure you work out the real costs in advance. Calculate how much it would cost to set up and operate for one year, two years and so on. Also find out if any extra charges could arise – maintenance costs, upgrades or replacing batteries, for example.
If you're registered disabled or have a chronic health condition, you can claim a VAT exemption on a range of assistive technology products, which can save you a significant amount of money. Find out more about VAT reductions and exemptions for disabled people and people aged over 60 on.
Below are some of the main personal alarm and telecare companies in the UK.
Appello: provides a personal alarm service with 24-hour monitoring, as well as accessories like smoke alarms and key safes.
Careline365: an alarm service with 24-hour monitoring that uses mobile technology rather than a landline, and includes pendant alarms and fall sensors.
Helpline: a 24/7 monitored response service, which provides single and double personal alarm buttons and a GPS tracker.
IndeMe: offers a personal alarm service with 24-hour monitoring, with additional options including falls alarms and smoke alarms. The service is supported by Tunstall Healthcare Ltd.
Lifeline24: a monitored alarm service with pendant and wrist alarm buttons, with an optional falls alarm.
Personal Alarm Watch: a personal alarm service that uses a discreet smartwatch design, with 24/7 monitoring and two-way emergency calls.
SureSafe: a personal alarm that offers a choice of a 24/7 monitored package or a version that send alerts directly to family and friends. Products include the ‘Go Anywhere’ personal alarm that isn’t dependent on a landline.
Taking Care: a 24-hour monitoring alarm service, which also offers fall alarms and GPS monitoring services. PPP is the provider for the Age UK personal alarm service. It is also the first telecare company to become a .
Telecare24: monthly and annual plans for pendant alarm, fall alarm or Buddi GPS tracker packages.
Telecare Choice: monthly and annual plans for pendant and wrist alarms, plus an alarm that uses mobile technology rather than a landline.