Consumer research for older and disabled people

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Telecare

How telecare works

Telecare is a service that supports people at home by giving them a connection to a call centre and other services. Because of this, a lot of people find that telecare helps them stay in their own home.

One very simple kind of telecare is a button that you wear or carry. You can use this to call for help - it alerts a call centre, or a friend or relative, who checks if you are all right.

Often you have an intercom in your home that the centre can use to talk to you.

You can also get detectors that:

  • alert someone if you fall over
  • warn the call centre about things such as fire, flooding, gas or carbon monoxide
  • monitor your blood pressure, blood-sugar level, heart rhythm, lung capacity or other medical measurements
  • can tell if you have got out of bed yet, where you are in your home, whether you're warm enough, or even whether you have had dinner (they go on the fridge door)

Some automatic pill dispensers can be used with a telecare service. You can have a spoken message that is timed to coincide with when you have to take your medicine, or even get a call from someone to check that you've taken it. The automatic dispenser can be set to notify the call centre if you haven't taken your medicine out. Of course, they cannot know if you have actually taken the medicine - you remain responsible for that.

Getting telecare equipment and services

Telecare services are available in most areas, and may be run by councils, housing associations or private firms. Ask your local social services or housing department about services in your area. Depending on where you live, you may have to pay a small weekly fee (£2-£3) to cover the service and equipment.

You can also arrange your own telecare service. You can get the equipment and the monitoring service from a national provider. The Telecare Services Association (TSA) is a trade association representing telecare service providers, local authorities and other interested bodies. They have a code of practice members must follow and they will help you find an accredited supplier.

Alternatively, you can just buy the equipment and set it up to work over the telephone or internet, so a friend or relative can keep an eye on you.

Both of the automatic pill dispensers that we tested can be set up to contact a mobile phone number or email address if you miss a dose. Some of the memory aid suppliers we list will sell you the equipment you need and help you to set it up.

Telecare Services Association (TSA)

The TSA is a trade association that represents telecare service providers, local authorities and others involved in the industry. Its website has information on telecare systems and you can use it to find a local service or details of suppliers of equipment.

Last updated: February 2010


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