Zoe Belford, director of Occupational Therapy Consultants (OTC), talks about using telecare in learning disability services.

Rising demand combined with constrained resources and the Care Act mean social care is changing. As a consequence many people are choosing to focus on proactive, preventative and personalised services. I believe this promotes the use of assistive technology and occupational therapy to enhance the independence of people with a learning disability, which improves care while preventing the need for costly services such as ‘waking nights’. Indeed, investing in technology enabled care services can prevent or delay the need for more costly and longer term social care packages.

Personalised care technology

As I wrote in my last blog, my company, Occupational Therapy Consultants (OTC), regularly provides specialist learning disability and assistive technology training, consultancy and project management. Occupational therapists use a holistic approach to support people with a learning disability in their occupation in independent living. They enable people to develop their daily living skills and where appropriate provide equipment or adapt their environment to increase their independence. This often results in less reliance on paid support. Occupational therapists are experts in assessment and activity analysis. They are perfectly placed to monitor and analyse activity monitoring assistive technology, which is used as an assessment tool to identify a personalised care package (often when service users find it difficult to communicate their needs due to their learning disability).

Occupational therapists prescribe assistive technology as an intervention to aid independence. For example, epilepsy sensors, Lifelines, GPS sensors, specialist beds, etc. A graded approach is then used to enable a person with a learning disability to learn how to use a device or be comfortable with assistive technology used by their support worker or family member. Support with the Mental Capacity Act, Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards, Best Interest Decisions and Safeguarding is also provided.

The benefits of personalised care technology can include:

  • Privacy, dignity, safety, independence, choice and control for service users
  • Service providers referring and requesting assistive technology support
  • Change of culture and a turnaround of attitudes, with assistive technology embedded into protocols and practices
  • Peace of mind for family members
  • Assistive technology is an effective assessment tool
  • Evidence based practice for bespoke and safe care packages
  • Supporting paid carers to know where and when they are needed
  • Assistive technology is supplementing care
  • Assistive technology enables the least restrictive approach to care
  • Moving people on to the next stage in independent living
  • Increased savings year on year

One particular area where telecare has come into its own is in its use to support ‘waking nights’ – where there is a need for support workers to check people’s wellbeing throughout the night while the person is sleeping. In social care this has previously been the traditional way to support a person’s needs. However, using technology like epilepsy and door sensors to reduce the need for ‘waking nights’ frees up funds and enables people to live better, safer lives – and to get a good night’s sleep! This often results in less behaviour which challenges and increased function in the daytime. Plus, reducing waking night staff to sleeping can save local authorities around £40,000.00 a year (ongoing, per case).

Find out more about OTC