Hi-Tech Spies To Keep Watch Over Elderly

Up To 20,000 vulnerable people in Stoke-on-Trent are set to benefit from technology which will help them stay in their own homes.

Pressure pads and sensors can tell if someone has had a fall, if they have not moved for a long time or if a fridge has not been opened for more than 24 hours.

At the moment, only 51 older people have been offered telecare services as part of a pilot scheme, while the more basic lifeline system – an alarm pendant worn round the neck – is used by 7,500 more.

But by 2010, up to 20,000 people will have their homes linked to a care control centre as part of a strategy to allow older people to keep their independence for longer.

Councillor Roger Ibbs, portfolio holder for adult services, said: “This technology enhances the lives of both the cared for and the carers and we are ahead of the game in its use. If someone has dementia and a history of wandering off, the second they touch the front door an alarm goes off in the control centre and we can respond very, very quickly.

“If someone is lying on the floor or someone has been motionless for a long while, it will tell us.”

The services available will range from the simple lifeline personal alarm button to integrated smoke and bogus caller alerts, fall and motion sensors and remote monitoring of heart rate and blood pressure.

In future, the technology could also be used to administer medicines automatically.

In addition, there are plans to link some homes to carers and health professionals via internet video links.

And similar services could be offered to residents with physical or learning disabilities.

Officials say the technology is extremely good value for money and believe it will be entirely self-financing by 2010 through charging other authorities to run monitoring services on their behalf.

The service in Stoke-on-Trent will be free to eligible people who cannot afford it, but other residents will be charged between £10 and £20 a month.

Some costly routine home visits will be replaced by telecare, but Mr Ibbs insists vital personal contact will not be lost.

He said: “That is not our intention whatsoever.

“But if we can take the strictly routine checks out we can deliver the more important services to many more people.”

The city council will initially have to invest £600,000 to replace old computer systems which were being used to run the lifeline service and the telecare pilot.