Mike Padgham, owner of St Cecilia’s care home in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, and Chair of the Independent Care Group (York and North Yorkshire) talks about how using telecare in residential care is maximising the independence and dignity of people with dementia and supporting staff to deliver improved care.

I read with interest the CORC (Commission on Residential Care) report produced by DEMOS last month. It really gets to the heart of the issue regarding the negative perceptions associated with the term ‘residential care’ and the confusion between this and the term ‘care home’. Indeed the polling and focus groups showed that 43% of people said they would not contemplate going into residential care…

Is residential care dead?

As a residential care home provider the report is welcome, in that there is realisation that more needs to be done to support the needs of people who can no longer be supported at home. But it also shows we need to do more to break the stereotypical image of residential care and really promote the benefits.

Using technology in residential care really works

Here at St Cecilia’s, a 21-bed residential care home in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, we’ve been lucky enough to be supported to do something a little differently.

In conjunction with Tunstall and North Yorkshire County Council, we developed a technology platform in the home for telecare sensors to be fitted according to the individual needs of each resident. For example we have enuresis sensors which detect instances of enuresis during the night, obviating the need to make too many habitual, intrusive checks; bed occupancy sensors which alert a member of staff if a resident left/fell out of their bed, enabling staff to check on their safety immediately; and door exit sensors which raise an alert on the system if it senses ingress or egress, maintaining the safety of residents and staff.

This innovation has given people with dementia improved health, greater independence, choice, dignity and a better quality of life. A small investment for priceless benefits. What greater reward can you get than that?

Technology and people working in harmony

Quick and timely alerts to incontinence, residents out of bed or outdoors give tremendous improvements to their health and safety and removes the need for too many  intrusive “just in case” checks.

Technology and people working together in harmony frees up staff to spend better, quality time with the residents and gives greater peace of mind to loved ones that health and safety at the home has been enhanced.


So how can we promote the benefits of technology in care homes?

For me, the benefits are four-fold:

  1. Cultural shift

Telecare has been embraced as a standard component of supporting the residents’ best interests when caring in this environment. Training is now included in the standard induction and refresher training for the staff. Families are accepting of telecare as a means of improving care and increasing personal contact with residents.

  1. Dignity for people

Telecare alleviates the need to make potentially intrusive wellbeing checks, meaning the dignity and privacy of residents is protected. The technology supports the free movement of residents around the property, maximising their independence. Residents’ needs are supported effectively without limiting their choice, where safe to do so. It was also an unexpected outcome that residents’ skin integrity improved as a result of reduced contact with urine due to enuresis sensors.

  1. Improved staff productivity

Staff are notified quickly of any issues, meaning they can respond immediately. Staff were professionally trained, developing transferable skills, supported and encouraged to consider telecare as a tool to deliver a better quality of care both by being able to react when necessary and when to respect the residents’ own space and time. Some staff time is freed to spend more quality time with residents in conversation and supporting their interests, improving their quality of life and reassuring families.

  1. Empowerment

Staff feel more supported in their work and they are at the forefront of developing new approaches to care.

Squeezed budgets = prevention suffers

This approach has worked very well for us and I’d like to see it more widespread. The council has reduced the amount of expenditure for this project at a time when budgets are being squeezed. Prevention always suffers in difficult financial times even though there is lots of evidence to show that investing in prevention which might cost more in the short term, brings many benefits in the long term, from a financial and, more importantly, human perspective.

In 2014 we can get anything we want from technology entertainment-wise, but the health service is in the dark ages. I’d like to be able to speak to an expert in hospital where they can see the client in the care home remotely and receive readings electronically to help us treat that person and avoid a trip to A&E. Sadly today we cannot even email prescriptions.

So whilst we are doing our best to maximise the independence and dignity of people with dementia and supporting staff to deliver improved care through the use of telecare, I know there is more we can do to support residents’ health and wellbeing.

Technology by itself isn’t the solution but it is one of a range of tools that care providers can use to take a creative approach to meeting the varied needs of residents. Surely this would then set a new vision for housing with care in a 21st century care system.

Find out more about St Cecilia’s use of technology