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These are devices that can help improve safety in the home, for example by automatically switching on a light or cutting off the gas supply, or that can alert a carer or monitoring centre that a person requires immediate support or assistance. Some devices monitor the home environment and can detect gas, carbon monoxide, smoke, extreme temperatures or flooding. Other devices monitor the activities of the person and can detect when someone is getting out of a bed or a chair, entering/leaving a room or building or when they have had a fall.
These devices can be used to detect activity and inactivity. Passive infra-red (PIR) sensors can look for movement at pre-set times e.g. every 4 hours. If the person has not moved for this time an alarm will be sent to the carer or monitoring centre. Activity monitoring systems use wireless sensors around the home which send information on the daily activities of a person to a monitoring service for short term assessment purposes or to provide information to a carer.
Alarm and pager units
These devices are used to alert a carer or a community alarm monitoring centre to provide a response when a sensor is triggered. Some assistive technology devices will trigger a portable pager or bleeper that is carried by the carer within the same home. For people who are often on their own at home, telecare devices will trigger a table-top alarm unit which will automatically dial a carer outside the home or a 24 hour monitoring centre.
These devices detect when a person who as been assessed as being at risk of falling is getting out of a bed or a chair or when they have had a fall. Pressure sensors or mats on the bed, chair or floor will send a signal to a portable receiver/pager to alert a carer that the person is getting up and about. Fall detectors are worn by the person and will trigger an alert to a carer if an impact is detected and/or the person remains in a lying position. Telecare fall detectors will also alert the monitoring centre so that an appropriate response can be made.
Flood detectors and water temperature monitors
These devices detect flooding and dangerously hot water. Flood detectors range from a simple plug that releases excess water if the taps have been left running in the bath or sink to prevent water overflowing, to wireless sensors that provide an audible alarm when they detect water rising above a certain level or when water is running onto the floor. Telecare flood detectors will also alert the carer or monitoring centre so that an appropriate response can be made. Water temperature monitors provide a visual or audible warning when water is dangerously hot.
Gas, carbon monoxide, smoke and extreme temperature detectors
These devices detect gas, carbon monoxide, smoke and extremes of temperature. Gas detectors provide a visual and audible alarm if a gas cooker or a gas fire is left unlit or there is a gas leak. In addition, some devices link to a cut off valve which will automatically cut off the gas supply. Carbon monoxide (CO) detectors provide a visual and audible alarm when dangerous CO emissions have been detected due to a blocked flu or fault in a fuel burning appliance. Smoke detectors provide an audible alarm when smoke is detected in the home. Extreme temperature monitor for excessively high and low temperatures and a rapid rate of rise in temperature. Telecare devices will also alert the carer or monitoring centre that the sensor has been triggered so that the emergency services can be called.
These devices provide easy to use or automatic lighting in the home. Touch lamps are easy to use lamps which can be turned on by touching the base area. Automatic night lights range from lights that come on at dusk and switch themselves off at dawn, to lights that come on automatically when a person gets out of their bed or chair or opens a door during the night.
Other safety and security devices
These devices are used to improve general safety and security in the home. Devices include key-safes for use by authorised carers and other persons who may need to access the home if the person is unable to open the front door.
"Wandering"/Safer walking technologies - to locate a person who may be lost
There are a growing range of devices that fall under this heading. They vary greatly in design and how they may be used. For example a card may be carried by the person containing emergency contact details should the holder become lost or experience difficulties. New GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) technologies now enable devices (including mobile phones) to locate the precise position of the carrier. As with the application of all technologies, ethical issues, including best interests and consent, should be thoroughly considered.
"Wandering"/Safer walking technologies - to alert when someone gets up or leaves
These devices may trigger a sensor (door, bed, chair, floor) and notify another person (perhaps a carer in the same house or living elsewhere, or a monitoring centre) should a person open a door where a sensor is located or leave a designated area. As with the application of all technologies, ethical issues, including best interests and consent, should be thoroughly considered.