A new online public poll published by the charity, Carers UK, shows consumers are missing out on the benefits of technology when it comes to supporting health and care needs.
Though 7 in 10 of adults online across the UK use technology to help them manage their money (72%), shop (71%), for social networking (67%) and for communicating (66%), less than 3 in 10 (29%) of us turn to technology when it comes to helping us with health and care. Those aged 45 – 54, the age people are most likely to be a carer and those over 55 were less likely than other age groups to be using technology to support with care. Men were significantly less likely (25%) than women (33%) to use health and care technology.
The findings were consistent across generations with young and old, social media users and middle and working class respondents all reporting very low use of health and care technology.
Although, regular use of the internet continues to rise steadily with more than 8 in 10 of us going online daily, the numbers using technology to support with health and care remains stubbornly low1. Similar research carried out by the charity back in 2013 found the same proportion of people (30%) then were embracing health and care technology.
Other research by Carers UK shows that caring can have a significant impact on people’s lives, increasing worry and stress, increasing the likelihood of ill-health, reducing time with other family and friends and often placing a strain on people’s ability to juggle work and care.2 Evidence from carers who use technology shows that the right support can impact positively on carers’ lives and help to counter-act some of the more challenging aspects of caring.3
Heléna Herklots CBE, Chief Executive of Carers UK said:
“With more and more of us taking on caring responsibilities, it’s astounding there’s been no increase in the numbers embracing the support that health and care technology can bring. From keeping up with relatives on Skype, using a Sat Nav to get around to selling our things on Ebay, we use technology in so many parts of our lives; so why not for care?
“We want everyone, whether they’re caring at the moment or not, to be better informed about the growing potential of technology to support them with a caring role – giving them peace of mind, enabling them and those they care for more choice and freedom and the ability to remain in work, stay in touch with friends or simply have an essential break to recharge. Simple phone apps and products that support carers’ wellbeing, reduce anxiety and help organise care, can make a big difference to coping or not as a carer.”
3 in 5 of us will take on an unpaid caring role for someone disabled, older or seriously ill3. The new poll shows people are very unlikely to consider exploring technology as a source of support even if they did start to care for an ill or disabled loved one with only 5% selecting technology as something they’d be most likely to turn to for support with caring.
There are a number of technology-enabled products and services that can help manage caring and can support the person you look after. These include;
- Monitors and sensors that can alert you or a 24/7 monitoring centre of a fall, fire, gas or a flood and can reassure that someone is up and about. GPS tracking, exit sensors or location devices to alert you if someone with dementia wanders outside the home.
- Vital sign monitors help track blood glucose, blood pressure and blood oxygen, or they can monitor heart rate and sleep patterns. Medication management systems which can help someone remember their medication regime and alert you when someone hasn’t taken their medication.
- Apps that can help with coordinating care, monitor health and mental health, help with treatment and rehabilitation or help manage a condition.
Carers UK says the poll indicates a major barrier to using care technology is a lack of knowledge, advice and information rather than public resistance to using it. When the kinds of technology available were described to respondents the proportion saying they would use it to help them if they were caring rose to 7 in 10 (69%) so long as it was affordable.
Niki cares for her husband, Matthew, who has a progressive genetic disorder. They use a range of health and care technology. Niki said:
“Before we got the monitoring system, I never knew if I would come home and find my husband on the floor covered in blood. I am his sole carer and he can’t be left on his own or leave the house very easily. This situation wasn’t part of the life plan, but technology allows me to keep working from home and gives Matthew some choice in his day.
“We use a monitoring system of cameras and motion sensors that alerts me of his movement on my phone. I can have a look and see if he’s just turning over or if he needs something. It allows me to be downstairs and continue to work from home knowing that he’s okay upstairs. I can also pop out for a pint of milk now without worrying.”
To find out more about how technology can support with caring, go to carersuk.org/tech to find resources and a video about the benefits of technology.
- ONS Statistical bulletin on Internet access – households and individual:2016
- State of Caring 2016: Carers UK
- Carers and Telecare 2012: Carers UK, State of Caring 2016, Carers UK
- Carers UK (2001), It could be you
- All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2091 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 15th – 16th February 2017. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).