Tuesday 18 November 2014

Impact of Assistive technology at Holly Lodge

One of the aspects of Holly Lodge which has made it unique is the huge amount of assistive technology which has been included. The supplier, Icom (www.telesupport.org.uk), worked with mcch’s Housing Team, the support team and families to ensure that they understood the needs of the individuals and could supply and deploy equipment creatively and effectively. 

Four tenants have been at Holly Lodge for over a year now, so we have had an opportunity to consider the impact of the technology on the way that the tenants live and are supported.

The technology installed includes:

Panels in each property which feed alerts to DECT (cordless) phones carried by staff. Staff also have alert pendants which help to pinpoint them to within 1.5 metres when activated

PC management system
A PC management system which allows staff to manage the system and the supply company to dial-in remotely to fix issues 

Water management system which comprises sensors in the overflow of the kitchen sinks, wash-hand basins and baths coupled with water shut-off valves which stop the water supply if the water level reaches the overflow, thus averting a flood. 

This has allowed people to be left alone safely in their own homes for periods of time, or use their own water supply or simply ‘play’ with water when they would otherwise have to be supported or supervised. 

Directional lighting

Directional lighting from bedroom to bathroom. This is low level lighting recessed in the ceiling and linked to the infrared door sensor. When someone triggers the infrared beam to the bedroom doorway the directional lighting is activated to direct the tenant from their bedroom to their bathroom. As the lighting is low it is intended not to wake the tenant as completely as normal lighting, thus increasing their chances of being able to quickly return to sleep. Staff report that after getting up during the night to go into the bathroom, tenants are settling more often than originally anticipated without staff support or intervention.  It is not known for sure whether this lighting has made a difference, or whether this is due to other factors such as staff not being present, fewer stimuli than in shared accommodation and so on.

This lighting does not operate in reverse (ie bathroom to bedroom) so it is unknown whether better/different outcomes could have been achieved.

Infrared beams across the baths which alert staff to tenants getting in the bath. There have been occasions when one tenant has got in the bath whilst alone. Staff have been alerted to this and dealt with the situation without further incident.

Passive infrared sensors which alert staff to periods of inactivity at times when they are expecting the tenants to be moving around or activity during the night so they are aware of tenants’ movements in and out of these rooms. This allows tenants to be left alone to sleep at night with a carer on site, but not in their homes.

Call buttons. One tenant has been using the call button to tell staff that he needs attention. This is a major breakthrough in his communication as he previously kicked the door. However, he is not using the call button so much now as he has realised that he does have free access to use his front door and to leave his home.

Door sensors are installed on the front doors which alert staff when the door is opened/closed. One tenant has broken his already, but the others are working and being used to advise staff of tenants’ movements.

Small appliance shut off devices which can be programmed to deactivate appliances such as toasters and kettles at specific times.

biometric (finger-print) reader
Electric locks which connect to biometric (finger-print) readers on the front and rear doors, and also on the front gate. Staff report that the locks are slower to respond than they had anticipated. However, they are still finding it quicker to access the flats this way than having to find and then use one of a number of keys that they would otherwise need to carry in order to access each flat. The biometric readers also reduce the risk of keys being used as weapons or causing accidental harm during physical encounters. They also eliminate the loss of keys. Some of the biometric readers have been replaced with fobs which work on a proximity sensor so that the door is unlocked by the time the person reaches it. The biometric lock on the front gate had to be removed as the sunlight was affecting it.

In addition to the package installed, the system is also enabled for other telecare and telehealth devices to be integrated in the future as people’s needs change.

Benefits and cost savings

The assistive technology appears to have benefited both tenants and staff. The tenants are able to have time by themselves in their own homes and remain safe as technology sends various alerts and reports to staff about their location or activities. Staff report feeling safer because technology can pinpoint them to within a couple of metres so that assistance can be summoned and arrive quickly.

It is very difficult to quantify direct cost savings achieved as a result of the technology being present, although it is clear that the tenants could not be supported in the same way without it. It is likely that additional night time staff would have been needed to check on tenants to ensure their safety or to be within their homes at night.  Tenants being able to have time alone has reduced some challenging behaviour which, in theory, may have otherwise resulted in additional support costs. In the periods when tenants are in their own homes alone, staff are able to catch up with paperwork and other indirect activities which would otherwise have required additional time to be included in the roster.

Anecdotally the managerial staff report fewer instances of short term sickness in this staff group than at their previous locations. Short term sickness can be an indicator of stress or unhappiness in the work place and staff have reported feeling safer and happier working at Holly Lodge due to the larger more flexible staff team, less ‘burn out, less sparse and clinical environment and technology to help them summon assistance quickly.