The UK population is ageing. On average, people in this country are living longer - there are now 3.2 million people aged 80 or over (and almost 600,000 of these are aged 90 or over). And it’s estimated that by 2041 we will have more than 3 million people aged 85 or over. That’s more than double today’s figure.
Currently, around 418,000 older people live in residential care homes. There are around 5,500 different care providers in the UK, operating 11,300 care homes for the elderly.
It seems to go without saying that the “nature and quality of care has a massive impact on [an older] person’s happiness, health, and longevity”, as a UK government study reported in 2017. The same study found that “the sector performs a vital public service that benefits many people, and is staffed by many dedicated and caring individuals”.
But what are some of the issues surrounding the care of our older population - and how can care homes best utilise technology to help ensure the best possible quality of life for their residents?
Covid-19 has hit the care sector hard. There were over 15 thousand Coronavirus-related deaths in care homes in England and Wales between 10 April and 24 April 2020, with issues surrounding PPE and adequate testing thought to be have exacerbated the situation.
As well, social distancing measures put in place to help combat the spread of the virus have adversely impacted residents’ mental wellbeing, as family and friends have been unable to visit.
One way of helping to combat the spread, while allowing residents to maintain some measure of social contact, is the PinGo™ intelligent lapel badge. The lapel badge uses a traffic light system to help care home residents, staff and visitors maintain social distancing, while also providing vital contact tracing data that can be used in the event of confirmed cases of the virus.
Loneliness and mental wellbeing
Even before Covid, loneliness and mental health issues were a major problem among elderly people.
Loneliness has wider-reaching consequences: it is associated with a 40% increased risk of dementia, while deficiencies in social relationships are connected with an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
A study in England found that 24% of people aged over 60 felt lonely ‘sometimes’ or ‘often’, while a survey carried out for Age UK in 2017 revealed that nearly half of adults (7.7million) aged 55 and over said they had experienced depression and around the same number (7.3 million) have suffered with anxiety.
The Age UK study also reported that nearly three-quarters of older people think that having more opportunities to connect with other people is the best way to help someone suffering with mental health problems.
Under current social distancing and lockdown restrictions this is becoming more of an issue than ever; but the use of digital telecare can help alleviate the problems caused by increased isolation. Infonet digital telecare provides major benefits to the socialisation and inclusion of care home residents, by ensuring that everyone in the community is brought together through simple communications, both video and media. Children and grandchildren can use Skype and Whatsapp to stay in touch with their parents and grandparents and share photos and stories.
Around 40% of older people living in care homes are receiving specialist treatment for dementia. It’s important that older people suffering with dementia are treated with dignity, and enabled to keep as much independence as possible, while still being given the care and safety they need.
Dementia technology, such as our Dementia Light Guidance Monitoring system encourages independence and upholds care home residents’ rights to privacy and dignity at night. It’s a light guidance system that uses automatic light cueing and in-room sensors to give peace of mind to both residents and their carers.
According to an NHS report conducted in 2017, falls are the largest cause of emergency hospital admissions for older people. Around a third of people aged 65 and over, and around half of people aged 80 and over fall at least once a year.
The prognosis for older people who fall is often not good, without only around 30% returning to independence and the complete return of the lifestyle enjoyed before falling.
The Aurum™ Digital Nursecall system is one way that digital technologies can be used to help support residents at risk of falls. Aurum™ is a Touch Screen Nursecall unit which incorporates Fall Management and allows care home residents to easily and safely call a member of staff from anywhere on site.