Living well with long-term conditions

Last week Age UK hosted a conference that looked at the significant role that the voluntary and community sector plays in managing long-term conditions and what role it can play in the future in partnership with the NHS and social care. This was a great opportunity to bring together clinical commissioning groups, local authority commissioners and voluntary sector ogranisations to consider the reality of the daily life for people that are living with long term conditions, discuss policy aspirations and share examples of positive practice in helping people live well and manage their own health.

For Age UK the issue of long-term conditions is tremendously important.

  • At any one time 65 per cent of people in hospital will be over the age of 65.
  • In the UK an estimated 4 million older people in the UK have a limiting longstanding illness and if nothing is done to address age-related disease there will be 6 million people with a long-term illness or disability by 2030.

If the Government is committed to making the NHS more effective and efficient it has to adapt for an ageing society. Without addressing this issue we believe that is it unlikely that reform of the NHS will be truly successful. We were therefore delighted that the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, spoke at the conference showing the commitment of the Department of Health. Continue reading “Living well with long-term conditions”

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. Continue reading “Guest blog – Who uses telecare?”

Technology in the care of older people

I recently gave the opening address to a conference jointly hosted by the Royal Academy of Engineering and Age UK. The title of the conference was ‘Designing cost-effective care for older people: how technology can make a difference’ and I was asked to give ‘An on-the-ground perspective on the role of technology in the care of older people’.

Keeping people out of hospitals and supporting them so that they can live safely and comfortably at home are challenges that the government are trying to address, and technology and engineering can provide some of the solutions.

There are two main forms of assistive-living technology: telecare and telehealth. Teleheath services are aimed at helping people manage their long term health conditions in their own home. (Conditions include – diabetes, heart failure and/ or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). Teleceare services are aimed at vulnerable people who need the support of Social Care or Health Services to keep living on their own. For example those with physical disabilities, the frail and elderly or those suffering from dementia or epilepsy.

Unfortunately, to date take up has been rather slow; there are only around 5,000 telehealth users and only 1.5m pieces of telecare in use today.

My talk focused on how we can increase the use of technology in a way that enhances people’s lives. This drew in part from a project we are involved in funded by the Technology and Strategy Board titled: COBALT: Challenging Obstacles and Barriers to Assisted Living Technologies. We are about half-way through this project and have spoken to many older people. What we have seen so far is that, contrary to the common assumption that technology has passed older people by and that they fear it or are dubious about the value in terms of improving their lives, older people do embrace technology on their own terms: television ownership, for example, is virtually 100%.

The problem is that assistive-living technology tends to be presented and provided differently to other forms of technology, like a microwave or a TV. Instead they need to be focused on the person and designed to fit into everyday life, rather than symbolise frailty or decline.

If uptake is to change designers, developers, engineers and purchasers (both private and public) need to rethink how the technology is created and presented. The creation of personal budgets in social care and the development of these in health mean purchasing of assisted-living technology will be more consumer driven in the future. Designers of this type of technology will have to place greater emphasis on what the consumer wants.

The conference suggested that those responsible for developing these technologies are responding to these considerations and technology that actually improves and enhances people’s lives, as well as being desirable is likely to dramatically increase in the near future.

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