Telecare or telehealth are simple technologies that can help you stay independent and safe at home. The discreet devices can monitor your health and call for help if anything goes wrong – letting you and your family and friends get on with life with peace of mind.
What is telecare?
Telecare refers to a range of services that use alarms and sensors to check you’re okay and call for help if you’re not.
Small devices in your home connect to a monitoring service outside your home. When an alarm or sensor is activated, either by you or automatically, this triggers a call for help. The best-known example is the wearable personal alarm. This lets you press a button to call for help if you need it - for example, if you’ve fallen.
How telecare works
You’ll have a control box plugged into your telephone line or internet connection, as well as the device itself. The box will usually be connected to a support centre.
When an alarm is raised, the box makes a call to the support centre. The operator will talk to you, usually through the device, and get you the help you need. They’ll have your contact details and the details of people to contact for you in an emergency – this could include relatives, carers or the emergency services.
Some telecare services can just trigger an alarm in your home rather than calling a support centre. This could be helpful for alerting a carer to a problem when they’re in another room.
Types of telecare equipment
There’s a large range of equipment available. A few examples are:
- portable alarms to wear on your wrist or round your neck
- fixed alarms, such as pull cords in a bathroom
- movement sensors, for example, to detect if you’ve fallen out of bed or trigger a check-up call if you haven’t moved for a long time
- pill dispensers to release medication at the appropriate time and trigger an alarm if it isn’t removed from the dispenser
- gas shut-off devices or fire detectors to reduce the risk of forgetting to turn off a gas ring or fire
- incontinence sensors to notify your carer if bedding becomes damp
- flood detectors under sinks or baths to warn of leaks or overflowing water.
Is telecare right for me?
Telecare can’t replace one-to-one care from another person, but it can be a useful addition to other care you receive. It can also be helpful if you don’t need a care worker, but live alone and want the reassurance that you can get help if you need it.
What if I accidentally trigger the alarm?
Don’t worry! Some devices will have a cancel button, but even if you do trigger it by accident, the telecare support centres are used to this and don’t mind.
How to get telecare
Some councils offer telecare services. If you think telecare might help you, it’s best to contact your local council and ask for a care needs assessment. This works out what your needs are so you can see what support, including telecare, might help you.
You can also buy telecare services privately. If you’re considering this, do plenty of research and shop around to make sure you get the best service for you. Your local council or the Telecare Services Association should be able to provide a list of telecare companies in your area.
Paying for telecare services
If you’re getting telecare privately, most companies will usually charge an initial set-up fee and a weekly or monthly monitoring fee.
If you’re getting telecare services from the council, they’ll assess your finances to work out what you have to pay. Depending on your circumstances, you may:
- have to pay for it all yourself
- qualify for telecare free of charge
- get the equipment installed for free and be asked to pay a weekly or monthly charge.
Technology can also be used to monitor your health generally. If you have a long-term health condition, you may be able to use telehealth technologies to manage your treatment and reduce how often you need to visit your GP.
Telehealth devices can send information about your health to your GP or other health professionals involved in your care. This means they can monitor your condition and make changes to your treatment as necessary. For example, telehealth devices could:
- measure your blood pressure
- monitor oxygen levels in your blood if you have a condition like asthma
- monitor your blood sugar levels if you’re diabetic
- prompt you to perform health checks – for example, to check your blood pressure – attend appointments or take medication.
Telehealth devices are usually provided by a healthcare professional who will explain how they work. If you’re interested in them, ask your GP or other health professional for more information.
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