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Gadgets to help you stay safe

Most of us want to remain as independent as possible and to stay living in our own homes, even if we experience diffculties as the result of health problems or a disability. At the same time we want to know that we are safe, and can quickly call for help in an emergency.

If you are an older person and less mobile, or are over 18 and have a physical or learning disability, there are gadgets available that will allow you to quickly call for help in an emergency, particularly if you live on your own.

And the carers and relatives of people with dementia will be greatly reassured if they know that they can quietly keep an eye on the ones they love and ensure that they remain safe and well within their homes.

Modern technology means that there are now gadgets available to help provide this reassurance. These gadgets are often known as 'Telecare' or 'assistive technology'.

If you have suddenly become unwell at home, or have had a fall or accident and can't get up, it's reassuring to know that, by simply pressing a button on a pendant round your neck or wrist, help will quickly arrive. Many people may already be familiar with these types of 'lifeline alarms'.

Depending on your circumstances there are also other gadgets available which can be used to help keep you safe or to summon assistance in an emergency. 

Some gadgets have been designed especially for people with dementia. These gadgets can allow you to stay living safely in the privacy of your own home, whilst relatives or others can keep a regular eye on you and ensure that you do not come to any harm.

All the gadgets work in a similar way - an alarm alerts a central team who will check that you are alright or (if you have requested it) contact named relatives or friends to check that you are okay. Either the central team or your named friend / relative will hold a key for your property so that they can come and help you if you trigger the alarm and are having problems.

The alarm is usually sent using your telephone landline. In some cases the gadgets available can now use mobile phone / SIM technology.

Many people find that a Telecare service gives them peace of mind and reassurance that help will arrive quickly if something goes wrong.

The types of equipment available include: 

  • An alarm pendant which you wear round your neck or on your wrist - if you have a an accident or are taken unwell you can press a button on the pendant to call for help
  • A sensor which raises an alarm if it detects fire, smoke, gas, carbon monoxide, or an overflowing sink or bath
  • Burglar alarms and bogus caller alarms to enable you to get help if you are worried someone is trying to get into your home
  • Falls detectors, bed sensors and epilepsy sensors for people who may become ill suddenly, or fall - the sensors can tell if you have fallen suddenly, or are having a fit, and will automatically call for help
  • Memory aids such as memo minders which allow you to record messages with daily reminders, perhaps reminding you to take medication or to eat meals on a regular basis
  • A device to switch the light on at night when you get out of bed
  • A device to remind you to take your keys with you
  • A 'tracker' (also known as a GPS or sat-nav) device which alerts your carer that you are leaving the premises or have not returned within a certain time period
  • Monitoring systems to ensure your family know you are safe within your home - for example that you have got up in the morning, that you are going to bed safely, that you have not fallen in the bathroom, or that you have not left your home in the middle of the night - these systems are particularly useful for people with dementia

People First and staff from Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, and Hammersmith and Fulham have produced this guide which explains what types of equipment might be suitable for you, whether following an assessment from your council, or if you want to buy it privately. 

Depending on your situation your local council may be able to assist you to install an alarm or telecare equipment - see below for more details.

Equipment can also be bought directly from suppliers. There is usually a monthly service charge, as well as the initial cost of the equipment.

There are a number of websites which provide information on who may be able to help and what they provide.

People First cannot recommend individual websites but has provided links below to some of the websites out there. We try to check all these sites for content, but cannot guarantee the content or links in any way. No items have been tested by People First and all information is provided without legal responsibility.

Websites which you might find useful include:

Age UK also offer you the chance to buy their simple emergency alarm system.

If you or those around you are concerned about your safety when you are alone at home then you can consider installing a small, secure safe outside your home with a set of your keys in it. Anyone wanting to access the keys will need to know a code number; you can set the number, and can then give it only to people whom you know and trust. 
This means that when you are in difficulty, and / or have triggered an alarm or the phone to call for help, someone will be able to gain access to your property.

Depending on the overall level of support that you need you may be eligible for a pendant alarm or other Telecare equipment following an assessment from your local council. Please be aware that not all councils provide all of the devices listed above.

If, following an assessment, you are not eligible for any support from your council, or would prefer to pay for an alarm or Telecare privately, you can still make private arrangements using the council's Telecare team:- 

Westminster

Tel: 020 7641 4528 (if you know a relative or friend who can act as your key holder)
Tel 020 7641 4065 (if you want to pay the council for a private key holding service to go with your alarm)
Email: SCSEmergencyDutyOffice@westminster.gov.uk
Telecare leaflet for Westminster residents

Kensington and Chelsea

The Community Alarm Service (CAS) team
Tel: 020 7605 6509
Email: HM-Cas@rbkc.gov.uk
Telecare leaflet for Kensington and Chelsea residents (please use these contact details, rather than those in this leaflet)

Hammersmith and Fulham

For alarms - tel 020 8741 4008 or email careline@lbhf.gov.uk
Careline leaflet for Hammersmith & Fulham residents

For all other Telecare equipment - tel  020 8753 6492  or email AssistiveTechnology@lbhf.gov.uk
Telecare leaflet for Hammersmith & Fulham residents

If you have problems remembering when to take your medication then go to our page on Taking Medication for tips on what support is available to you.

The Which website provides information on all aspects of Telecare / Assistive Technology, and advice on how to choose the best gadgets for you.

On the Independent For Longer website a wide range of people who have used Telecare / Assistive Technology tell their stories, and show us how it has helped them to lead more independent lives.

The Independent Age website provides a guide on Telecare and Telehealth (Guide number 6).

The Alzheimers Society have produced a factsheet called Assistive technology - devices to help with everyday living.

The Disability Living Foundation have also produced two factsheets called Personal alarm systems and telecare and Choosing equipment to help with memory and safety.

The AT Dementia website allows you to complete an on-line assessment of your situation and then suggests the kinds of equipment and other support which might be of use to you.

The BBC have published an article which looks at the growing problem of dementia for an aging population across the globe, and at how technology might support people with dementia to live independently and safely within their own homes.