HfTThis Carers Week, Steve Barnard, Strategic Director of Innovation at Hft, describes how Hft (a national charity supporting adults with learning disabilities) has used personalised (also known as assistive) technology to support people with learning disabilities and carers to live more independent, safe and healthy lives.

From specialist telecare systems to simple safer bath-plugs, personalised technology can have a huge impact on people with learning disabilities, giving them more choice and control and allowing them to live the best life possible, whatever that means for them.

We see the evidence for this every day, but last year, when we ran a survey with the people we support, the impact became even clearer and showed that personalised technology was having a real and positive effect.  Over 80% of the people we support who responded said they feel safer and two thirds said they feel they can live more independently – significant numbers. We’ve also seen that personalised technology can have a huge impact on the lives of carers, helping to reassure them that their relative can live independently whilst remaining safe, and allowing them to live their own lives without concern or worry.

At Hft, we’re firm believers in putting the person we support at the heart of everything we do. That’s why we conduct detailed personal assessments, working with individuals, their families and their support staff to find creative ways for technology to improve their lives both now and in the future.  But as ever, the proof of the pudding is in the eating! Here are a couple of personal stories of how personalised technology has helped improve the lives of people supported by Hft.

Andrew and Gillian’s story

Andrew and Gillian lived together in a small bungalow attached to a house but they wanted to live in their own home together with their own front door. They wanted to become more independent and have more privacy, and didn’t always want a support worker staying overnight. We assessed their needs and provided them with personalised technology including a panic button to make them feel safer, and a door sensor which would alert staff if a door had been left open. Hft also provided Andrew and Gillian with a Lifeline Home Unit allowing a monitoring centre to call the flat and contact staff if Andrew or Gillian failed to answer.

With this toolkit of technology, Andrew and Gillian have achieved their goal of having their own front door and now live together in a two bedroom flat. This now provides more opportunities for them to gain confidence and participate in activities such as gardening and cooking for themselves so that they can build their lives together.

James’ story

James loved getting up early and going for a walk at breakfast time, however support workers found that James was forgetting to shut his front door – creating a security risk. Hft assessed his situation and provided James with a door sensor to alert staff if James had gone out and left the door open.

As James was also informed by the door sensor if he had left it open, over time he began to remember to shut it himself without being reminded. This meant he could still go for a walk and maintain his independence but without staff worrying about his security.  After just a few months of having this door sensor fitted, James no longer leaves his door wide open and can now go on his morning walk independently and safely.

Supporting carers with technology

Personalised technology doesn’t just support people with learning disabilities, it also helps their families and support staff to feel reassured that technology is providing access to support whenever they need it, and that they will be alerted if support is required. Below are just some of the comments made by families of the people we support in our 2015 Impact Research

“Having a specialised lock means more security and therefore a safer environment for my brother”

“She can safely make a cup of tea independently. She can phone family independently”

“(His personal alarm) enables him to travel home alone”

Simple solutions, personalised to the needs of the individual, can have a huge positive impact on a person’s life.

Photos have been posed by models and names changed to protect individual’s privacy.