Home tech could change Lincolnshire adult social care forever
Early findings from new research being conducted by the University of Lincoln, Lincolnshire County Council and Serco, indicates that the introduction of assistive technology at home could revolutionise life for vulnerable adults who might otherwise feel excluded or isolated.
The ‘Social Care Technology Innovation for the Citizens of Lincolnshire’ project, which has been running since June this year, is investigating how affordable home tech could be used to enhance social care service delivery and improve the lives of almost 12,000 adults the council helps support each year.
Of this number 8,905 people need some form of long-term help, with resources being divided to cover mental health, learning disabilities, memory and cognition, and physical and social support.
Now, spurred on by COVID-19 lockdowns and the wider acceptance and use of technology in the home for communication, social and health needs, the University-led project has found:
- Telecare pros and cons: Access to ‘telecare’ - a monitoring service offering remote support to elderly, disabled and vulnerable people living at home alone - can be successful, but its ease of use is vital, as are systems that come with full support and servicing.
- Alexa, order a takeaway: A number of people are already actively using Echo and Alexa-enabled devices for tasks like medicine reminders, recording messages to care staff, directly connecting to local authority services, general household appliance control of lights and thermostats, and even food delivery.
- Remote monitoring: Unobtrusive movement sensors can oversee a person’s activity at home and help relatives or community services get a better idea of their activity, or show if they need more assistance or emergency help. However, cameras raise concerns over privacy and are not as effective at detecting, for example, skin colour changes or other specific health issues.
- Maintaining human contact: A careful balance is needed between technological advancements and hands-on care, meaning any devices must be supplemental and should not fully replace a physical carer’s role.
- A question of privacy: Some carers are concerned about privacy over personal data and providing devices to people suffering mental impairment, particularly dementia, as there have been some instances where people have been frightened ‘because a machine is talking to them.’
- No one-size-fits-all: Not everyone can comfortably ‘problem-solve’ technology. A user with impaired cognition may be unable to manage an alarm pendant, meaning care solutions have to offer multiple methods of use. It is also important that each person’s circumstances and needs are carefully assessed.
“These initial outcomes match the Department for Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) agenda to consider innovative approaches that will increase independence and self-care for people living with complex conditions, while also improving the circumstances of carers,” explains Dr Salah Al-Majeed, Acting Head of the School of Computer Science at the University of Lincoln.
“Technology offers increasingly potential for new methods of diagnosing, detecting and monitoring warning signs in vulnerable adults, and can also serve to connect friends, families, carers and communities within a wider web of support.
“While the UK’s care system is currently in the midst of a significant overhaul, the requirements of the country’s 14.1 million disabled people, and 5.3 million people aged over 75 have to be catered for. This is particularly the case when it comes to supporting Lincolnshire’s rural community, where many people are living in isolated locations.
“We are completely appreciative of the fact that technology can’t do everything – it can’t put you to bed, clean you or give you a hug, but it can do other things which then allows the most valuable resource – social workers, occupational therapists, carers – to do other things for you that are also hugely important.”
“These demands present a significant challenge to councils, but there is a real opportunity to review how technology can help, and we’re excited that Lincolnshire is at the forefront of championing this goal.
“We want to encourage those receiving council support and individuals working in Lincolnshire’s care services to contribute to our ongoing surveys, which ask questions about people’s use, thoughts and opinions on technological support in adult social care.” To access these surveys please visit
Carers’ Questionnaire: https://lincoln.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/carers-questionnaire
Adult care recipients’ Questionnaire: https://lincoln.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/adults-questionnaire
Dr Al-Majeed concludes: “We are looking forward to revealing more detail on potential advances in technological adult social care support in a White Paper which will conclude our current project in October.”