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TECHNICAL SUPPORT: FIVE BRILLIANT BITS OF TECH TO HELP INDEPENDENT LIVING

  • November 15, 2021
 

TECHNICAL SUPPORT: FIVE BRILLIANT BITS OF TECH TO HELP INDEPENDENT LIVING

 

Helping cared-for people to live independently can be a struggle. Most of us providing support for relatives or other loved ones simply can’t be there every time we’re needed, and the same is true of professional care services. And even if constant support was practical, that isn’t necessarily a good thing) .

The good news is that technology is helping to fill some of the gaps in care and support. Used thoughtfully, tech is providing more and more ways to help people live with dignity and independence. In this blog post, we’ve rounded up some of the best that are already making a real difference to people’s lives (and one that’s on the way!).

Sock aids

Proof that technology doesn’t have to be complicated, sock aids are simple but ingenious devices. They use a combination of guides and cords to help people with restricted mobility get their socks on without having to bend over or reach too much. Getting socks on may not be the most glamorous thing in the world, but it’s one of those daily tasks that can become an exhausting battle for an older or less mobile person. From that point of view, the sock aid is a little triumph.

See sock aids on Amazon.

Pill dispensers

As we age or struggle with different health ailments, most of us need an increasing number of medications. Keeping on top of these can be a challenge, and the consequences of getting it wrong — by missing a dose or doubling up on one — can be disastrous.

Enter the automated pill dispenser. Once these devices have been filled with the appropriate medicines by the pharmacy, they will only release the required pills or capsules at the right time, with an alarm on the device tells the customer when the dose is available. They can also be programmed to alert next of kin or care provider if the medication hasnt been taken.

In the absence of pill dispensers, a smart speaker can be set to remind people when it’s time to take their medication.

Some may object to the idea of being directed by a machine to take their meds, but it’s a godsend for anyone who loses track of what they’ve taken (and for their relatives).

Another way of simplifying medication is through the use of app-based online services. LloydsDirect, for example, have an app that prompts someone to take their medicine at the correct times.

Apps to help with cognitive decline

Research has shown that lack of mental stimulation can accelerate cognitive decline, including that associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Conversely, keeping the mind challenged and engaged seems to slow cognitive decline.

One convenient way of encouraging mental stimulation is through an app. Out of the many available, we’ve picked out three which have been designed to promote cognitive activity:

  • Mindmate – a free app that provides games and ‘brain workouts’ designed to enhance attention, memory, problem-solving, and cognitive speed. The developers also take a holistic approach to brain health, by encouraging good exercise habits and nutrition.
  • Jigsaw Puzzles Real – jigsaw puzzles are great for mental stimulation, but physical jigsaws can be cumbersome and present difficulties with reaching pieces (and locating lost ones!). Jigsaw Puzzles Real provides an alternative, offering puzzles which range from nine pieces to 1000. It’s free, although you will have to endure some ads unless you upgrade.
  • AmuseIT – this cheap, innovative app has been developed for people living with dementia. The creators have taken a different approach to those at Mindmate, focusing on enjoyment rather than achievement and measurement. The app provides image-based quizzes that are designed to spark conversation between customers and carers, as well as sparking memories. The interface has been kept simple and is best used on tablets.

Online shopping

It’s easy to forget that many thousands of people in the UK have never bought anything online. While online shopping doesn’t suit every cared-for person, it can be a source of interest and enjoyment, an opportunity to learn new skills, and allow access to goods that otherwise wouldn’t be available.

All the major supermarkets now offer delivery services that can be booked online, or even click and collect for those still mobile enough to go out. This can be a lifeline for people who can no longer easily get to shops. Choosing and ordering one’s own food can restore much-needed autonomy, as well as relieving relatives from the shopping run.

Voice-aided technology

Voice-activated technology has tremendous potential for helping people to stay independent in their own homes.

Physical controls for devices — including switches, buttons and touch-sensitive screens — can present a barrier to living independently. For anyone with poor vision, declining fine motor control or problems with memory, they can be difficult or impossible to navigate.

Voice control simply bypasses many of these problems. It’s simple to learn, convenient and its reliability is improving all the time. Voice-activation is readily available to support all sorts of everyday tasks, including playing music, googling information, controlling lights and thermostats, making phone calls, and more. As the technology continues to develop, this is an exciting area to watch.

Coming soon: Robots for companionship

You can’t buy one from Argos just yet, but it looks like ‘carer robots’ are on the way. A recent trial in the UK and Japan used two-wheeled robots with residents of care homes. The robots could hold simple conversations with residents, play music, teach languages and provide medication reminders. After two weeks, those who had interacted with the robots showed improvements in mental health.

Don’t worry, no one is pretending that the robots are any substitute for human companionship, but it is hoped that with further development, they might prove useful for people who spend much of their days alone.

Our take on tech and care

There’s no doubt that technology, especially IT and mobile tech, has its downsides. But for cared-for people trying to retain their independence, it is opening new worlds of possibilities. Caring for and supporting people will always be a human endeavour, but the judicious use of technology can definitely help us along.

Retain Healthcare is a leading provider of outcome-focused in-home care and support for elderly and vulnerable patients in the South West. Retain also recruits healthcare workers and provides high-quality healthcare training. For all enquiries, please contact enquiries@retaingroup.co.uk

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