Technology in the Care Sector
Director of care Keith Crowhurst is a registered nurse specialising in clinical care. With over 20 years’ experience in the care home setting, he’s previously worked in the NHS, private sector and education, and is an important part of the British Home Senior Management Team for more than six years. (www.britishhome.org.uk)
HOW TECHNOLOGY IS HELPING A 160-YEAR-OLD CHARITY MAINTAIN ITS PERSONAL TOUCH AND REHABILITATION OFFERING DESPITE LOCKDOWN
It has been an incredibly hard year for the staff, residents and families at British Home, but as the end of lockdown approaches this summer, and we welcome the return of family visits into our Streatham home, it’s important to reflect on how we survived lock- down, and look forward to the future of our care sector.
Digital has been an incredibly valuable tool in helping the team at British Home continue to provide care for up to 80 residents at any time, boost our staff efficiency, and keep families and friends in close contact with loved ones. Personal visits become unfortunately off the cards during lockdown, so virtual visiting through online services, even when residents are non-verbal or non-responsive, have been key to enabling contact between partners, parents, friends and family; something that simply wouldn’t have happened without digital tools.
Our residents love community visits, which have included sessions with curators from the British Museum, concerts given by local choirs, weekly visits from Pets as Therapy, flower arranging sessions, art clubs, and quiz nights. During lockdown, we have had to transfer this to online group activities, games, TV and music streaming for individuals and small groups keep everyone active and stimulated. Yes, they are not the same as being able to bond in person, but they have been so valuable during this hard time.
This year as we hit our 160th anniversary, we have just announced fundraising plans for a High- Dependency unit for people with more complex and more demanding conditions. This, despite being tech based, will help us provide personalised one-to-one care, therapy and activities facilitated by highly-skilled staff and the most up-to-date equipment, including the use of digital technology to organise personal sensory diets and bespoke playlists, as well as specialised programme equipment and lighting.
We’re also seeing so many therapies improved by digital and technology, such as kinetic exercise games, and packages like Eyegaze and Predictable allow residents to find their voice and communicate, another key to providing rehabilitation, independence, and hope for anyone affected by neuro-disability.
It’s important we embrace technology and not shy away from it. This very technology has helped us evolved from a ‘Home for the incurables’ to a ‘Rehabilitation center’ offering hope to not only our residents and their families, but also our amazing staff.
Three specific ways in which we have seen technology boost the level of care and support for the people who need it at British Home include:
Specifically, communication aids. These are key in supporting people who would otherwise not be able to communicate at all. However, these aid can also support and make life easier for those people who can communicate but may require some assistance. Some of the equipment fitted involves adapted keyboards, use of tablets, and a piece of technology called Eye Gaze, which is a way of accessing a computer aid using a mouse controlled with the eyes. Residents can select an item on a screen by dwelling, blinking or clicking on it with a switch. The Eye Gaze systems work by having lights and cameras that pick up light reflections from the pupil and translate the eye movement into mouse cursor movements.
This is incredibly helpful for residents with a range of conditions, and generally people who have limited limb movement and cannot always communicate verbally. British Home has used it with our residents with spinal injuries, multiple sclerosis and one resident with motor neurone disease which was more challenging due to his uncontrolled movements, but it enabled him to communicate right up until the end of his life. Eye Gaze links with a piece of software which enables residents to use their eyes as a mouse to scroll and clock on letters and phrases, which is then ‘spoken’ by the software.
This is a continuation of work that British Home is already doing and will vary on an individual by individual basis. In fact, there have been a number of instances where residents who had previously not been considered likely to improve in their conditions, have shown huge progress, owing to a personalised approach, or therapy offered by the Home and tailored to the resident. The technology that our team adopts plays a big part in this, and is enlisted to complement the therapies offered to give residents the best chance of rehabilitation, pain relief and reablement.
2. Smart sensory rooms
All of the HDU rooms, which are used in supporting the rehabilitation of some of our residents, will have sensory facilities such as lighting and sounds, alongside individualised sensory support. For example, often when people are in a minimally conscious state, they cannot communicate whether they are too hot, or too cold. Special sensors will monitor the temperature of residents, and will alert carers for the need for changes to be made, which makes a big difference to residents’ comfort and wellbeing.
Control of all systems in the room will be via tablet. Where a resident is able, this will mean that they can either use touch or voice to activate TV, internet, radio, sensory equipment, temperature controls (etc) and even use smart TV to ‘visit’ friends and family,or engage with community activities online.
3. Protection against injury from falls
Injury from falling is a risk and there are obviously issues when someone cannot call or notify of their need for help. British Home is piloting a system in two rooms where sensors are installed. The sensors do an initial sweep using radiowaves of the room to set up where items are normally positioned and where the resident is likely to be for long periods. Once running if there is evidence that the resident has fallen and can’t get up then nursing staff are immediately alerted both at their workstation and through phone app.
I have been working with British Home for more than six years and the innovation in this sector forever amazes me. I look forward to what the future of care holds, and the difference a bit of hope can make for anyone affected by neuro-disabilities.