Oysta has been delivering safer independence for people over many years. Recently, we have been thinking a lot about safer independence in the context of the Care Act 2014 as part of many engagements with local authority telecare providers. So we'd like to pose the question and share some of our thoughts – and we welcome your views on our LinkedIn page.
A dictionary definition is clear:
To be safe is to be: protected from or not exposed to danger or risk; not likely to be harmed or lost.
To be independent is to be: free from outside control; not subject to another's authority.
In the context of vulnerable people across our society, it's about large numbers of lives having greater freedom while being safe: whether you are one of the 11.4 million over 65s of which 3.5 million live alone, and about 3 million experience a fall each year (leading to the greatest levels of hospital admissions, 40% of ambulance call outs, and many further medical complications); or one of the 850,000 dementia sufferers in the UK; or of the 800,000 people receiving home care or residential care; or of the 1.2 million with learning disability.
Safer independence is about enabling better lives in a way, and at a cost, that can benefit hundreds of thousands of people. We believe three interconnected areas are critical:
1. Confidence - First and foremost we must ensure service users, and carers, have confidence that help is at hand if they feel distressed, are injured, or are lost. That means automatic and calibrated detection of falls or non-movement; high-grade microphones and speakers so those in distress can hear and be heard; use of the full mix of voice and data communication channels often concurrently so that real alerts are reliable and reach the right carer or emergency service at the right time.
2. Mobility - To be independent means not confining service users to the four-walls of their homes and allowing them to be mobile. Enabling freedom responsibly means it is to the users clear benefit that others are confident about their whereabouts and how to reach them should it necessary. That means accurate pinpointing of location and alerting movement in relation pre-set zones, if it is appropriate for the individual and situation.
3. Connected - We need to connect the informal care network to professional care. That means allowing family carers to also be sent calls and alerts to their mobile and see them online, as they wish, so that the best possible care can be co-ordinated. This forms a vital part of monitoring a person's wellbeing: sharing the responsibility between statutory care and the family. And a vulnerable person feels cared for by those closest to them as well as the care and emergency services.
As an individual, we should also understand that we may need different combinations and at varying levels of interaction - giving some freedom of choice and to not feel too constrained by outside control.
The Care Act 2014 replaces the existing 60-year old legislation regarding social care. The traditional model of "button and box" hardware similarly needs to be transformed to be fit for today's digital world. Not by imposing the latest development from Apple or Samsung, or expecting the vulnerable to use 'swipey-apps' or touch screens if they are not comfortable, but by remaining considerate to the most vulnerable in our society and thinking about what safer independence really means to them.