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In this technology dependent era, many people are looking for new ways to help with caring for an older person.

During the twentieth century there were a number of inventions which have helped older people to live a more comfortable life, such as the stairlift, which has allowed people to stay in their own home for longer.

Personal alarm systems have also enabled older people to prolong independence, providing reassurance for them and their relatives, with the ability to call for emergency help at any time.

However, despite major technological progress in some areas of life, care of another person continues to require mainly human input.

Some technology used to assist in care of babies and young children cannot always be transferred to care of older people.

For example an audio or video baby monitor or baby webcam may be perfectly appropriate for making sure that your infant or toddler is settled or asleep, but in many instances it would be seen as intrusive and unsuitable for the care of an older person.

The exceptions might be for the very elderly who are willing to forgo their privacy or possibly in cases of severe dementia where the person might not be so aware of the loss of privacy, but would benefit from the increased level of supervision.

TeleHealth

One development in assistive technology is telehealth, whereby NHS patients are able to test their glucose levels or blood pressure at home and the results are transmitted to the local surgery via a remote system.

This means problems can be identified sooner and it can help to reduce the number of visits to the GP. In the US the GrandCare system offers similar data recording, as well as reminders to take medication, and sensor monitoring to identify movements, for example no movement for a number of hours would flag an alert to a caregiver, as would excessive trips to the bathroom.

The system also incorporates social and leisure features, such as video chat, photo sharing and games.

One development in assistive technology is telehealth, whereby NHS patients are able to test their glucose levels or blood pressure at home and the results are transmitted to the local surgery via a remote system.

This means problems can be identified sooner and it can help to reduce the number of visits to the GP. In the US the GrandCare system offers similar data recording, as well as reminders to take medication, and sensor monitoring to identify movements, for example no movement for a number of hours would flag an alert to a caregiver, as would excessive trips to the bathroom. The system also incorporates social and leisure features, such as video chat, photo sharing and games.

For social services, one of the main aims of automation in future may be to reduce the practical work required by paid carers, thereby allowing them to spend more visit time interacting with the client.

However, there is of course a risk that care visits are simply made even shorter as pressure is put on care providers to reduce costs. Human interaction with a carer can mean the difference between having some welcome company and complete isolation for some older people.

In the future, we may see major changes in how technology can help with care of older people, but there will need to be careful consideration of just how much technology is appropriate, without losing the benefits of good old fashioned human contact and care.

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