Telecare is a specific kind of assistive technology which uses sensors connected to a central 24-hour monitoring system.
Telecare helps to manage risk and support independence by means of placing sensors around the home to help detect possible problems such as:
- a person falling and being unable to get up
- leaving taps running or (particularly for people with dementia)
- smoke and gas leaks
- allowing strangers into your home.
It enables many disabled adults and older people to live independently without posing a risk to themselves and others.
For this reason, telecare is now very popular with people living in their own homes and for those living in supported accommodation like sheltered housing and extra care schemes.
Some of the most widely used telecare devices are:
Community alarm systems have been around for quite a while. A personal alarm is worn around the neck, on your wrist or attached to your clothing so that if you fall or have an accident you can get help quickly from a 24-hour monitoring centre. Pull cords or buzzers are often fitted next to the bed or in the bathroom to make it easy for you to contact someone when you are not wearing the pendant.
Bogus caller or panic buttons provides reassurance in the event of an unexpected caller. They are usually fitted near a door and can be used to discretely call for the monitoring centre when a stranger requests entry to your home.
Door sensors alert the centre when a door is left open, e.g. after a certain time of night.
Environmental detectors like smoke detectors, flood sensors, gas sensors and bed/chair occupancy sensors also send instant alarms to a monitoring centre.
Tracking devices are becoming more commonplace in protecting older people who wish to live independently. A small sensor is worn and provides peace of mind to family and friends that the person is safe. If the person does wander off and get lost, the GPS tracking device will alert relatives – and if necessary the emergency services – to their whereabouts.
Specialist assistive devices can also help people with sensory impairments. The RNIB publishes a Beginner’s Guide to Assistive Technology. Wales Action on Hearing Loss Cymru (formerly the RNID) has an online shop and the National Institute on Deafness disorders provides detailed information about assistive devices to help people with hearing, voice, speech or language disorders.
How do I find out more?
Many people now purchase their own products, particularly community alarm systems (with telecare systems, be certain to make sure they are compatible with your current system).
If you have concerns about your safety at home and want to know how technology could help you, contact your local council’s social services department and ask for a needs assessment.
VAT relief on equipment
If you have a long-term condition or disability, you may not have to pay VAT on telecare equipment. For more information and a list of qualifying products and services, visit the Inland Revenue website or call the helpline on 0845 302 0203.