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How technology can enable older people to live independently for longer



Gavin Bashar, UK managing director at Tunstall Healthcare, discusses how technology can enable older people to live independently for longer, emerging technologies that can support falls management, and how we can meet the 2025 digital transformation target.

Falls are the largest cause of emergency hospital admissions for older people with 70,000-75,000 people fracturing their hip as a result of falls in the UK each year1. Medical and social care costs for these patients are over £2 billion.

Falls can reduce confidence, and precipitate admission to residential care, so it’s therefore vital to consider different methods of falls management to reduce mortality rates, and enable older people to live  safely and independently for as long as possible.

How can technology enable older people to live independently for longer?

We are living longer as a nation, and our ageing population is continuing to grow. Technology can help us deliver personalised care that empowers people to remain at home with the support of their family and other stakeholders, and improve their quality of life.

It can also support people living in residential care environments, by ensuring staff are alerted of a possible fall immediately. The speed of help being received after a fall has a significant impact on outcomes as an extended period of time on the floor can exacerbate any injuries caused by a fall and have other serious consequences. In the case of injury, response time is very important.

Timely medical care also reduces the chance for further complications such as chest infections and tends to reduce the length of hospital stays. Effectively managing falls can also prevent future incidents, as research shows that 30-40 per cent of residents who fall will do so again. Thus, it is crucial for staff to respond quickly and effectively after a fall.

As technology advances, we can use data to provide actionable insights, and deliver better, more informed and more proactive care. Digital solutions can also empower staff and other care providers to work more efficiently, reduce bureaucracy and enable them to spot changes in people’s behaviour at an earlier stage to reduce the number of falls and subsequently the need for emergency interventions and more complex care.

How can technology be used to manage, respond to or help prevent falls?

Technology has a key role to play in reducing the number of falls and minimising the consequences. We offer a range of solutions which use advanced technology and are tailored to the needs of the individual and their circumstances, which evolve over time as requirements change.

Devices such as wearable fall detectors and bed occupancy sensors can ensure help is on hand quickly after a fall. Our bed occupancy sensors provide real time alerts when a client leaves their bed and doesn’t return within a preset period of time. They can even be programmed to switch on lights so that people can find their way to and from their bed easily and safely.

Our myAmie pendant can be worn on the wrist or around the neck and allows the user to call for help by pressing a button which can alert an onsite carer or 24 hour specialist monitoring centre in the event of a fall.  Medication dispensers and prompts can reduce falls due to medication mismanagement, and lifestyle monitoring can identify behaviours which may indicate the likelihood of a fall, enabling intervention.

What prevention/management-related technologies are you most proud of?

Our telecare services and other fall prevention and management-related technologies have the potential to hugely minimise the number of falls and the associated care costs.

Telecare combine a range of unobtrusive alarms and sensors which detect events and are linked to a 24-hour response centre. Should a sensor be activated, either automatically or by the user, an alert will be immediately received at the monitoring centre where the operator will contact family members, response teams or the emergency services to provide help.

We have a range of exciting telecare products, including our Vibby which is a sleek, contemporary and technologically advanced fall detector which can be worn on the wrist. The Vibby will automatically raise an alert if it senses the user has fallen, and also enables the wearer to easily call for help manually.

The iVi intelligent pendant is a small, lightweight device which allows the wearer to press a help button to generate an alarm call, and will also automatically generate a call for assistance if it detects a fall.

How is Tunstall helping to meet the UK’s 2025 digital transformation target?

In preparation for the UK’s communications network’s digital switchover, we’re working with our partners, including housing associations, local governments, and care homes, to audit equipment and plan a strategy to ensure that devices that will no longer work are identified and updated.

By communicating the effects that the transition will have on thousands of devices, we’re encouraging our partners to start making plans for a digital future as soon as possible, and we’ve created resources to support and educate on how to provide a seamless service, implement digital ready equipment and plan investments effectively.

For more information on how technology from Tunstall can support falls management, click here.