Guest blog – Who uses telecare?

This blog was contributed by James Lloyd, Director of the Strategic Society CentreJames Lloyd was appointed Director of the Strategic Society Centre in September 2010. He has a particular interest in social care, pensions, financial services, as well as individual and societal ageing.

The Strategic Society Centre recently published a big piece of statistical research about “who uses telecare?”

‘Telecare’ describes alerting devices and related services that respond when someone with care needs living at home experiences a crisis. Although not for necessarily for everyone, telecare can help people live independently at home for longer, and can also reduce reliance on paid and family carers.

While telecare has long been tipped as an important potential part of how society adapts to people living longer, there’s also been lack of basic data about telecare users.

At the Centre, we wanted to address this, so with support from Age UK we undertook statistical analysis of data for 2008 from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing.

‘ELSA’ is a survey of around 10,000 people aged 50+ in England that re-interviews the same people every two years. The questions in the ELSA survey are very comprehensive, so we were able to build up a detailed picture of telecare users and their gender, health conditions, receipt of care, living situation and lots of other factors.

So what did we find? First, there are around a million total older users of personal alarms and alerting devices in England, although this is likely to be a conservative estimate. Most users are women, aged 80+, who live alone.

Telecare users are more likely than not to receive other forms of care and support. In fact nearly half of telecare users receive care from a son or daughter, and around a half receive formal care at home, paid for privately or by the council.

As well as describing people who use telecare, the research made estimates about potential users: individuals in the older population who might benefit from using telecare. The results here were striking. Nearly two million people receiving informal care might benefit from using telecare in some form, which may benefit not only them but those who support them.

A key challenge for telecare is how to spread the word and make people aware of how it can support those with care needs living at home. In this regard, we were struck by how few potential users actually used formal care services, but did own a mobile phone. So given mobile phones – and especially new ‘smartphones’ – are often tipped to play a greater role in telecare in future, this could be one way route for making people aware of telecare.

Overall, the research gave us lots of interesting findings and we look forward to hearing the thoughts of those working in the field of social care.

 Read the report ‘Who Uses Telecare’

 Find out more about ageing issues

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