Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Caring for carers using health technology

Recruiting and retaining care staff is an ongoing challenge for care providers. Likewise, every day another 6,000 people take on the responsibility of caring for a loved one at home. Therefore, supporting the wellbeing of staff in social care settings and the homes of vulnerable people is paramount.

Technology innovations present various benefits for carers and the people they care for. It is vital to support the wellbeing of carers to ensure successful care systems exist in the future for people living with disabilities. The urgent need to invest in preventative services and early interventions to reduce pressures on social care workers is being increasingly recognised across the care system.

Digital innovation offers the ability to build partnerships, maximise the use of data, drive cultural change, and support care staff in how they work with people to access care and support. The next generation of digital solutions also creates an opportunity to broaden the circle of care to engage families, friends, and communities and support early, proactive, and preventative interventions.

As more carers understand the benefits of technology and begin to use it as part of their care provision, they will experience a number of benefits. The effective use of technology can improve their mental wellbeing through increased care efficiencies, better communication, and greater integration with other service providers such as GPs and housing associations. A sustainable future for people caring for those living with disabilities must be a priority if we are to realise a positive vision which puts the wellbeing of both end users and carers at the heart of delivery.

The benefits of technology

There are multiple types of technology and innovations that can be utilised to support the mental wellbeing of carers in social care settings. Whether it’s the use of virtual care platforms, remote monitoring solutions, communication tools, digital apps or sophisticated data platforms, services are entering a new phase of digital maturity.

Community alarms and telecare have been available in the UK for several decades, but their full potential has yet to be recognised. Systems can support people living with disabilities in a range of different settings, and enable carers to offer support when it’s needed most.

For example, systems can be introduced that will wake the carer if the person they care for leaves their bed during the night, and may be at risk of falling. Using such technology means paid carers can respond quickly, but reduces the need for regular checks, and unpaid carers can get a good night’s sleep knowing they will be woken if they are needed, rather than trying to listen for events.

Using technology in this way reduces pressure on carers as they know they will be alerted if the person they care for needs them, but in the meantime they can complete other tasks, or take a break. This reassurance can help to reduce carer burnout, protect their wellbeing and enable them to care for longer.

The modernisation of care through technology is essential to make sure carers are equipped to deal with the increasing pressures being placed on them, and more able to provide support that enriches the lives of the people they care for.

Educating carers

Technology must be embedded into care delivery for carers to reap the benefits to their mental and physical health and wellbeing. Cementing a cultural shift towards technology driven, outcomes-led approaches is required. In turn this needs early engagement from carers and an understanding that technology is designed to provide support, rather than to replace.

Root and branch change is required but getting there is challenging. Creating a world where it is standard practice to use technology as part of care delivery for people living with disabilities will help to deliver more efficient and personalised care and provide peace of mind to carers that the people they care for are protected. Developing an understanding of how telecare can help to manage risks will promote independence, choice and control.

By educating carers on the benefits of technology we can support and develop the people who will help to create a better future for us all. By bringing together a range of initiatives we can raise awareness of the value and potential of technology across the social care landscape, and increase the benefits to users, carers, professionals and providers.

The next generation

As technology advances, it supports the delivery of services that are not just reactive but proactive and even preventative. Intelligent use of data means trends can be identified that indicate a possible deterioration in health or increased likelihood of an event such as a fall.

Digital innovation also opens up a new world of possibilities for the provision of healthcare at home. Remote patient monitoring enables clinicians to deliver ongoing care and support to people in their own homes, and act before more complex interventions, such as hospital admission, may be required. This increases capacity in the health system, and reduces the stress of travel for patients and carers.

Technology can ease the pressure both physically and mentally on home and residential carers. As technology becomes more embedded into our services, we will reap the benefits of more personalised care, faster service provision, greater capacity to meet demand, and more efficiency.

Creating a more connected and intelligent world that supports a person-centred approach to the delivery of targeted, proactive and integrated care services is essential to caring for carers, and placing citizens and their families at the heart of decision making.

Gavin Bashar, UK managing director at Tunstall Healthcare

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