Richard Milner, Project Officer, Derbyshire Accommodation and Support Team, Derbyshire County Council, tells us about how telecare is helping to support people who have history or at risk of falling to remain living independently at home.
More than 3 million older people fall every year in the UK. As well as often resulting in injury, falls and the fear of falling can really damage the confidence of older people and greatly affect their quality of life. Falls also cost the NHS millions of pounds each year: NHS Derbyshire County spent more than £10m treating the 3,242 people aged over 65 who were admitted to hospital as the result of a fall in Derbyshire in 2012.
But evidence suggests that up to a third of falls can be avoided if effective strategies are put in place. This has certainly been our experience in Derbyshire. We have two falls prevention initiatives active in Derbyshire, which aim to prevent falls where possible and reduce the consequences where falls occur. Telecare is central to both services, ensuring we are aware should a fall occur and are able to respond quickly.
The Falls Recovery Service (FRS)
The Falls Recovery Service is a partnership between Derbyshire County Council, the NHS and the local monitoring centres throughout the county. Anyone receiving a community alarm or services from Derbyshire County Council’s Telecare Service who falls and is unable to get up independently can request assistance around the clock from the FRS by pressing their pendant alarm button. An FRS warden will attend, usually within 45 minutes, and if there are no injuries or concerns the warden will assist the person to get up from the floor. If there are any non-urgent medical signs and symptoms the FRS warden will advise the person to telephone 111 for an assessment and advice on further action. If the service user is injured or requires urgent medical attention, an ambulance will be called. The warden will also notify the relevant GP that their patient has fallen to enable them to update their records and provide further care as required.
Falls Alert Service (FAST)
The FAST service was launched in October 2012. Handy Van Service staff carry out wellbeing checks and advise about potential hazards in the home as well as assessing what kind of telecare equipment would be of benefit. The FAST package can include equipment such as a Lifeline and pendant, bed occupancy sensor, automatic lamp activation, and waist-worn fall detector, which is all provided free subject to a £2.50 per week monitoring fee. Any alerts raised will be received at the local 24 hour monitoring centre who can then take appropriate action.
The services are helping people like Eva, who is 90 and has lived in her current home for more than 50 years. Eva has a few health needs and poor mobility, but wants to remain living independently. She has had a number of falls, including one as a result of trying to silence her smoke detector with her walking stick. She had fallen asleep whilst her dinner was on the stove, and her smoke alarm was not monitored. Fortunately Eva was wearing her MyAmie pendant which she pressed for help, enabling the monitoring centre to hear the smoke detector and send help. As a result of the incident, Eva now has a monitored smoke detector which will alert the falls service automatically if it senses smoke. Eva has also received other support including a key safe, walking aid, safer footwear and help cooking meals. As a result, Eva feels reassured that help is always there is she needs it, and is less anxious about the risks of falls or fires.
Eva is a great example of what we are trying to achieve; improving people’s safety, wellbeing and independence; working in partnership to provide integrated care; providing efficient solutions which make best use of resources. The FRS has been accessed by over 3,000 people to date (September 2014), and 2,500 of these were helped without an ambulance or paramedic. The FAST service has been installed in almost 500 Derbyshire homes. That’s thousands of people like Eva whom we’re helping every day, and many more who we can help in the future.
Find out more about telecare at Derbyshire County Council