James Porteous is in his late sixties, and contracted polio at the age of six. As a result, his breathing was severely affected and he became paralysed. Although he made a slow recovery, James has been a wheelchair user ever since. This limited mobility has not restricted his achievements; James trained as a stockbroker, and prior to retirement was Nestlé’s head of trade communications. Today he runs his marketing consultancy from his home. He is also active in his community, working with the Prince’s Trust as well as local schools and the hospital and his work for charity, in particular the British Polio Fellowship, has earned him an MBE.

James writes about his experience of using the telecare service from Be Independent, an employee owned Social Enterprise Community Interest Company based in York which provides equipment and a telecare response service designed to support people to live at home independently for as long as possible.

James says

I’ve been using the Be Independent telecare and response service for several years. I wear a button around my neck which means I can easily call for help from anywhere in the house. If I press the button it transmits to a small unit on the wall and contacts the Be Independent centre. They will talk to me through the speaker on the unit and can then send help if we need it. I find it extremely comforting to know I can have assistance any time of day or night. For example, if I fall out of my wheelchair or I get a front wheel stuck in the garden it’s nice to know that I can call upon people who know our circumstances for help.

I’ve always been very independent, but as I’ve got older it’s more difficult to do the things I used to do. Some of my symptoms are worsening; I have some pain and I need a respirator at night to help me with breathing. Unfortunately my wife Gill has been recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. She now has a button too which means we can maintain our independence, live in our own home, and yet still have the comfort of having help available and close to us.

Be Independent staff continue to make regular calls to assess whether they can provide any other equipment or services to help make life safer and easier for us as our needs increase over time. The people that answer the phone and the staff that are called out in response to emergencies all have specialist training, so I know we’re being looked after by experienced professionals.

Telecare acts as a safety net for us. We live a very independent and fulfilling life, but at the same time we are aware that one day there may be a situation that means we need urgent help and the system gives us that back up.

The service is also a great comfort to our daughters, who know we have help 24 hours a day, and that they will be contacted if they’re needed. It’s really a fantastic support for the whole family, and we would all be much more anxious and stressed without it.

You can see James talking about his experience in this short film.