Staffordshire Pioneers Activity Monitoring in Assessment of People with Dementia

Staffordshire County Council was an early adopter of telecare, amongst the first to experiment with passive sensors to remind or protect people with dementia.

Assistive technology is an integral part of the Staffordshire’s ‘Changing Lives’ vision for adult social care which promotes independence, inclusion and well-being for older and disabled residents.

In 2006, Older Persons’ Team Leader, Jim Ellam was working with Lily, a service user with dementia who was reportedly going out at night.  Jim was planning to install an exit sensor but instead he decided to try the Just Checking activity monitoring system.  He found that the system gave him a much more comprehensive ‘picture’ of Lily’s patterns of activity in the house during both the day and night, and this enabled Jim, together with Lily’s family, to plan and organise the level of support she needed.  

Impressed with the assessment potential of the activity monitoring system, Staffordshire equipped each of its ‘Reablement’ teams with Just Checking. These intermediate care teams, which include social workers, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and home care assessors, work for a concentrated 6 week period following a spell in hospital or problems at home, to help rebuild skills and confidence so that people can manage with minimal support.

Reablement is carried out at home if possible, and this is particularly important for people with dementia, where familiar surroundings can help to orientate and provide cues for daily activities.

Just Checking is used to check that the level of support is right, and to see how the service user is acting when care staff are not at the house.  It can be difficult for a person with dementia to give a reliable account of what they are doing for themselves; interestingly, the system often shows that they are doing more than expected when left to their own devices.  

The system reduces the possibility of over-servicing, which has a detrimental effect not only on budgets, but on the rehabilitation process itself; too much help creates dependency, and it is intrusive.  Over time, staff can gauge from the activity charts the effect of gradually reducing the level of service as the person is ‘reabled’.

Family members are also given access to the charts. Jim Ellam says “sharing the Just Checking information with the family helps to secure the family’s confidence in the care package.”

The reablement teams install and move the systems themselves.  The radio based sensors are easy to use, and installation takes only 15 minutes.  The highly portable systems have each been reused many times.  

Pleased with the experience of the reablement teams, Staffordshire has adopted a policy of using Just Checking for assessment of people with dementia in all its social care teams.  The authority believes it leads to a more accurate assessment of needs, and a more personalised, efficient care package.

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