What is it?
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. They connect small devices in your home 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 alarm, which you can trigger yourself if you need help, for example if you’ve fallen.
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 will put through a call to the support centre and the operator will talk to you and get you the help you need. They’ll have your contact details and those 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.
What can telecare equipment do?
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 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. If you think telecare might help you, the best thing to do is to contact the adult social services department at your local council. They can carry out an assessment of your needs to see what support might help you.
I’m worried I might trigger the alarm accidentally
Don’t be! Some devices will have a cancel button, but even if you do this, the telecare support centres are used to this and don’t mind.
How do I get telecare?
Some councils offer telecare services. Start by getting a care needs assessment from the adult social services department at your local council. If the assessment finds you qualify for support, including telecare, they’ll then carry out a financial assessment to see whether you have to pay towards it.
Many people 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 (01625 530 320, tsa-voice.org.uk) should be able to provide a list of telecare companies in your area.
How much does it cost?
Telecare 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. You may have to pay for it yourself, you may qualify for telecare free of charge, or the council may install the equipment free of charge and ask you to pay the weekly or monthly charge.
Technology isn’t just helpful in an emergency – it can also be used to monitor your health generally. If you have a long-term health condition, you may be able to use technology to manage your treatment and reduce the need to visit your GP regularly. The device can send information about your health to your GP so 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, so ask your GP or other health professional for more information.