Digital Transformation Fund – Independent Living Project

Digital Transformation Fund – Independent Living Project

Blog written by Dafydd Owen, Project Lead for Pembrokeshire Local Authority.

Last week we did our first show and tell on the Digital Transformation fund that we were awarded.

The first big update was that we had been able to appoint Paula into a post that would allow us to drive the project forward. Paula had been working in the community alarm team as a co-ordinator when she was appointed to assist with the Independent Living Project.  Aside from her knowledge and experience working with Telecare services in Pembrokeshire, Paula is very forward thinking in the use of existing and new technology to help aid people to stay at home longer, whether with a standalone device or working alongside existing equipment installed.  Her direct involvement with service users has enabled Paula to achieve a good understanding of the varying needs people have locally, as well as the clinical requirements needed to provide adequate safeguards in their home, making her the perfect person for the project.

The focus of the Independent Living Project is, ‘how can we bring mainstream technology that people use for social care reasons in later life, to them today?’ a scenario we are more frequently facing within the community alarm team and one that led us to look at differing and alternative options to traditional Telecare devices.  Specifically, in Pembrokeshire, looking at those adaptable ‘assistive’ devices that may already exist within people’s homes or are mainstream enough that people are familiar with how they work. 

A referral for a local couple to have medication prompts set up for the wife, led to the potential idea of using mainstream technology in an assistive way.  She was in her late 80s, her husband in his early 80s and she was suffering from dementia with very little comprehension of day or time. 

We installed an ‘Alexa’ into a couple’s property, set up using the medication routines function and amending the clock face to help with date and time issues.  Speaking to the wider family about using the ‘Alexa’ as a reminder, as well as a source of information and extended contact, seemed a good option. 

However, in practice the comprehension and abilities of the clients at this point, did not allow them to learn the skills needed to get the best out of the Alexa or for it to provide the service they required; they knew what they wanted it to do, but simply could not remember to say “Alexa” first.  This referral turned from the idea of using mainstream technology into the question ‘if they had introduced an Alexa type product into their home earlier, could that device have been used to fulfil the needs that they now have as an older person?’

The successful bid to the Digital Transformation Fund has allowed us to work on the question using two approaches – the first is the creation of an online product guide that our social workers will be able to use.  This will include a section on the traditional types of Telecare currently offered through the community alarm system, as well as a separate section on mainstream, assistive technology devices.  Additionally, case studies of how other workers have used different types of traditional and ‘new’ equipment for local clients has been included to provide ‘real life’ scenarios.

Our next step in this approach, is working on getting the product guide completed as best as we can by the end of the project and we have involved some of our social workers in helping check the guide. 

The second approach is around the engagement of residents and clinicians within the County.  We are trying to meet up with residents of all age groups, social care, health and 3rd party organisations to discuss their awareness of Telecare and assistive technology and how it can be used to best serve.  This has included attending various older persons groups, guest speaker slots in the local college and younger person groups, as well as regular clinician and 3rd party team meetings with local council, health and social departments/organisations.  Currently we are continuing to look for more people/groups to engage with and to learn from.

Finally, we are also purchasing a range of new assistive technology devices that appropriate clients are able to use and evaluate for us.  These will make up the catalogue of products that we can advise on and demonstrate their potential.

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