The hi-tech route to independence

PUBLISHED: 11:02 08 March 2007 | UPDATED: 12:18 04 May 2010

CHANGING LIVES: Margi Fosh with some of the technology which is making 
people more independent.
Photo: SUPPLIED

CHANGING LIVES: Margi Fosh with some of the technology which is making people more independent. Photo: SUPPLIED

THREE out of every five people in the UK will become a carer at some point in their lives. But with cuts in respite care across the county, what happens when the carer needs a break? Now cutting-edge technology is being used to help more people stay in

THREE out of every five people in the UK will become a carer at some point in their lives.

But with cuts in respite care across the county, what happens when the carer needs a break?

Now cutting-edge technology is being used to help more people stay independent in their own homes and provide much-needed peace of mind to their carers.

LESLEY INNES found out more about the gadgets, both simple and sophisticated, that are changing lives.

SOME of the everyday gadgets which are being used to give hundreds of people across East Cambridgeshire back their independence would be good enough to feature in a James Bond film.

This high-tech equipment offers people someone to watch over them without intruding into their everyday lives.

From sophisticated sensors to simple aids, the gadgets mean more people can stay in their own homes while others have a chance to gain their independence.

For carers, it offers peace of mind to know that help is on-hand even when they cannot be there.

"The service started with mental health and dementia care," said assistive technology manager, Margi Fosh, who provides services on behalf of Cambridgeshire County Council's adult social services and the Cambridgeshire Primary Care Trust.

"As it progressed, in a very short time, we realised that everyone could benefit - young and old.

"Just as everyone is different and unique, this technology can be tailored to meet individual needs.

"Devices can alert only when care is needed so the service users keep their independence and their dignity."

Sensors can detect movement, raising the alarm if a person falls or leaves the house, or remind the user to take medication, pick up their keys or switch off the gas.

A wristband can offer 24-hour monitoring from anywhere in the world, giving a relative the chance to go on holiday, but keep in touch with someone back home and raise the alarm if needed through a coded website.

There are clever plugs designed to stop the bathroom flooding if the taps are left on, talking alarm clocks and pressure mats which can warn if a person wanders out of bed at night.

The technology has led to patients being able to be discharged earlier from hospital, reduced the need for residential care and allowed disabled children to learn new skills and gain a greater independence.

"In many cases we are enhancing what is already there to allow a person to remain as independent as possible," said Margi.

"We do a lot of work with children. We are piloting a learning disabilities scheme in Cambridge which has been challenging in its own way and hugely rewarding. Young people are being supported to be as independent as they can be, in some cases living on their own where in the past they would have needed 24-hour care."

The service helps 2,000 people across the county and equipment is loaned free of charge.

Referrals are made to the service through doctors, consultants, district nurses, health and social care teams or from carers or the service users themselves.

INFO: 01223 883756

email: margaret.fosh@cambridgeshire.nhs.uk

Reassurance - and a normal life

CUTTING edge technology has given 28-year-old Sophie the chance to run her own home - and her parents complete peace of mind.

Sophie lives in a supported scheme in East Cambridgeshire with the back-up of sophisticated gadgets that allow her to cope with her epilepsy.

Sensors can detect Sophie's movements in case she suffers a seizure so help can be summoned.

At night, if she is out of bed for longer than 20 minutes a voice will check on her and raise the alarm if necessary.

Sophie has been able to record messages on a memo reminder and when she walks out of the front door an infra-red sensor triggers the device, telling her the checks she must make before she leaves the house.

She also has a special clock which not only tells her the time, but the date and day of the week and whether it is am or pm. This allows her to run her own diary and make her own decisions.

This new technology has given Sophie's parents the reassurance they need while allowing their daughter to have her independence and lead a normal life.

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