Jim Charvill is Tunstall’s Group Director for Enterprise Architecture and his work involves developing new products and services. In this blog Jim discusses iCarer – a new system currently in development that aims to support those who care for others, in particular ‘informal’ (or unpaid) carers.
iCarer is a three-year project funded through the AAL that started in 2013 with a goal to help informal carers. Here, Tunstall is working with partners from Belgium, Ireland, Spain, Slovenia and the UK. The iCarer project is important at this time because changing demographics and lifestyles mean more and more of us are becoming ‘informal’ carers – frequently combining caring with paid employment and a host of other activities. Some of us may be caring for parents or older relatives; others may also be caring for children at the same time. These situations can place stress on informal carers as they struggle to juggle caring responsibilities with everything else that is going on in their life. This is why we got involved with iCarer – to help informal carers. Part of the early stages of the project included talking to carers to really understand what they needed to help them in their daily lives. This knowledge has helped to shape the design of the solutions, which continually receive feedback from carers so we can make improvements.
So what is iCarer intended to be?
Well, iCarer is a care guidance and learning services platform, designed primarily for those who care for older people. For example, with an older couple one may care for the other. In this kind of situation there may be stressful times, such as when one person needs to go shopping but worries about leaving the other at home alone. Other scenarios can include those who care for a parent whilst also working and caring for children – the so-called ‘sandwich generation’. These types of situation can lead to carers feeling stressed, overworked and even depressed. The iCarer system is an integrated health and care system dedicated to alleviating the stresses and strain associated with caring duties, whilst providing peace of mind and promoting independence. The system will identify and analyse activities of daily care and the psychological wellbeing of carers via discrete monitoring and interactions that enable carers’ stress levels to be considered. Through this proactive system, carers will be offered help and advice to improve care through personalised e-learning and will be linked to a supportive network of experts and other (formal) carers. The system will include Tunstall’s lifestyle monitoring services (ADLife), enhanced to provide informal carers with the information they require to support them in their care duties. When combined with the e-learning framework, network support and other monitoring and assistance services for the person being cared for, iCarer’s integrated, adaptive and holistic services aim to reduce stress and promote wellbeing.
The technical architecture underpinning this project involves the use of secure cloud computing. This means that services provided by the iCarer platform will be interoperable and accessible through any device capable of connecting to the cloud, providing assurance to carers wherever or whenever they need it. For example, devices chosen by the carer could include a tablet, smartphone or computer. Taking existing technologies like these that people already own and determining how they can be integrated with additional platforms to help support informal carers is hugely exciting and rewarding. It also supports the other partnership work we are already doing with Carers UK and as a member of Employers for Carers. Of course, iCarer support enabled by these technologies is not designed to replace the care that people provide. Rather, it will support activities of daily care and act as a ‘virtual carer’ support tool to improve the care provided while at the same supporting the carer.
Find out more about iCarer