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HEALTH & SAFEETY Building A Safe Haven

Tony Cahill, Executive Director at Vivark Ltd, draws attention to the future of care technology and the innovative measures that can help to keep older people safe without stripping them of their independence.

The need to control our own safety is a basic instinct the majority of us possess; therefore it’s reasonable to expect care home residents to feel apprehensive about entering an environment in which they no longer have full control.

Striking a balance between practical health and safety considerations and bringing a homely feel to the care home environment can be a challenge. A recent article in The Telegraph found that numerous UK care homes are currently failing their most vulnerable residents – leaving them in unsafe and unsanitary conditions.

Although this is not representative of the sector as a whole, it is important to understand that the ongoing safety of residents has to be the primary concern. Care homes should be a place where residents feel secure whilst, where possible, also continuing to feel part of the community and maintain some level of independence.

These sometimes conflicting objectives can present serious obstacles, but they can be achieved through careful planning and the use of innovative techniques that will deliver these aims, as well as efficient and effective care home management.

Preserving Independence Maintaining a feeling of safety and security whilst preserving independence can be achieved through the use of technology systems – from wireless personal distress alarms working throughout the entire home, to an adaptation of home monitoring systems into an application suitable for care homes.

Home monitoring systems that use innovative technology to monitor a person’s current state of health, such as the ability to get out of bed or get up from a chair, can all serve to track potential risks associated with some of the main health and safety concerns. In a care home environment, such systems can transmit a signal to a resident’s care provider to indicate if there’s a problem, whilst eliminating the need for frequent checks. This ensures residents aren’t being frequently disrupted and care home teams are using their time as effectively as possible.

New technology is developing quickly and current work underway will integrate small sensors, suitable to be worn by a person, which monitor vital stats such as body temperature and heartbeat. In addition, the sensors will be able to track a person’s location in the building and identify if they have had a fall or have even left the home unexpectedly.

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Linking the use of this technology to help manage the risks associated with residents that have dementia or other memory difficulties can also be a significant advantage. Residents suffering with dementia often have specific requirements that can limit opportunities to enjoy free time. The use of a home monitoring system would again assist with time management and also help providers to monitor behaviour and potential hazards.

Looking ahead, the aim would be to evolve this technology further to remotely monitor and ‘learn’ a resident’s day-to-day movements, allowing for alarms to be triggered if tablets haven’t been taken or an appliance has been left on, for example.

A Sense of Belonging As well as creating spaces that are safe, it’s also important to implement services that maintain sustainability within the community.

Many residents will have lived in the community local to a care home for a number of years before leaving their own home and will not want to feel that they are now isolated.


our role as a facilities management company, Vivark often sees care homes which comprise facilities such as a restaurant, hairdressers and even medical centres or dental practices. Even if these are mobile, they can ensure that the home remains an active part of the community.

With all these factors taken into account, care homes can ensure residents’ wellbeing, as well their health and safety.

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