Dorset trials ‘sensor-based’ care to keep elderly at home

Independence is important to all of us – but as we reach a certain age or develop a medical problem and the threat of a care home looms, it becomes a jealously guarded treasure.

The ability to stay in your own home is beneficial for all sorts of reasons. Now, there’s a new technology being tested in Dorset and you don’t even need to be able to use the internet to take part. But does it work, asks
Rachel Rowe.

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So who is Lilli?

Dorset Council is working with a technology company called Lilli on a three month trial using assistive technology in homes. Having been completely unnerved by an Alexa device in a friend’s home recently, I’m sceptical – and like most people, wondering where my information is going. Dorset Cabinet Lead Member for Health Cllr Piers Brown explained: “The Lilli technology consists of some very discreet sensors that are placed around a person’s home. They simply detect movement around the house. The data collected from the home is transmitted to a team of occupational therapists working in the social care department at Dorset Council. Using artificial intelligence and cloud technology, the team are able to monitor trends and overall health with that person.” I’m still left wondering whether this is all a bit too intrusive but I’m reassured by Piers. “The sensors are very discreet. You barely know they are there. It’s not like one of the pendants that older people are given to wear- and then of course are not
wearing it when they fall over.” All the data is handled securely by Dorset Council and the project has to undergo a
rigorous assessment to ensure a person’s information is handled in confidence before it can start. The technology does not ‘observe people’, it simply detects movement – or a lack of it. And one of the things that fascinated
me was how it can detect a problem before it happens.

It’s all in the hips

Fractured hips are one of the biggest causes of someone over 50 losing their independence. They result in decreased physical activity, losing the ability to go out and socialise, having to move to residential care – and
research shows one in three adults aged over 50 dies within 12 months of suffering a hip fracture. And that’s before anyone starts talking about the cost to the NHS and hospital bed occupancy. But what if that could be prevented? That’s where technology like Lilli comes in. When the occupational therapy team are monitoring
the data, they can pick up when someone’s balance is deteriorating and do something about it before they fall. A
therapist could introduce a few exercises to help that person, or place an appliance in the home to support them.

Staying out of care homes

The Lilli technology can also detect a urinary tract infection (UTI) before it happens just by monitoring the number of times someone uses the loo. Given a simple UTI in an elderly person causes dementia-like confusion and can lead to them falling at home, there are huge opportunities for the occupational therapy team to intervene and deal with an issue almost before it has happened, preventing admissions to hospitals and most importantly, keeping people healthier and more independent in their homes. Often, someone about to be discharged from hospital just needs a little support to stay independent. Instead of needing a care home bed they can go straight home to the comfort and familiarity with the Lilli monitoring arrangements.

Dorset Council is currently recruiting 100 people for a three month trial

Staff will identify people suitable and participants will have a choice of taking part. You don’t need to be able to
use the internet or even have a computer to have the Lilli technology in your home. Piers is clearly an enthusiast.
“The technology enables us to design reablement (temporary care to help a convalescent get back to normal and stay independent) care around the person. It makes a meaningful difference to someone’s life.” With the ability to improve quality of life by keeping people safe in their own homes and improving health, the new technology makes it an exciting time for reablement in the county.

By: Rachael Rowe

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