Time for care technology to be seen as mainstream

The Rt Hon Paul Burstow, chairman of the Social Care Institute for Excellence and care minister in the 2010-2015 coalition government, explains why digital technology in care settings should be viewed as core to daily operations

A few months before the UK went into lockdown, I heard about a care home using a simple piece of technology to bring a huge amount of joy to residents. In Portadown, Northern Ireland, Four Season Health Care’s Sandringham care home had given wireless headphones to residents so they could relive old memories. Listening to favourite songs wherever

they wanted to meant that many residents who had been reluctant to get out of their chairs, now began to dance together or sing along to the music. Staff described the transformation they witnessed, and the rich conversations that followed. Hearing about the powerful connection that an everyday device like wireless headphones can bring feels so poignant today, especially after thousands of care home residents have been deprived of physical connection with family and friends for so long. It shows how mainstream technology

- apps and bits of kit that we use every day to make our lives easier and more interesting - have an important role to

play in improving the lives of care home residents.

Technology is an enabler Digital technology, in all its forms, can be an enabler – empowering people and personalising their care and support, tailoring it to what people really want to achieve, not what we think their needs might be. So, why should someone’s use of technology change if they move into a care home? It is easy to think of technology in a

residential setting in terms of traditional nurse-call systems. Yet it is often the low-level stuff: playing favourite songs on YouTube, video-calling loved ones

When it comes to intertwining digital with care as a matter of course – so that services are more preventative, personalised, joined-up and data-driven - we are still in the foothills of the journey


on a tablet or sharing photos on social media. That can make a huge difference to residents’ lives. It gives them choice and control, boosts their independence and offers freedom to pursue different activities, just as they would have done at home.

Normalising the use of everyday

technology in care homes can also be a real eye-opener for staff, giving them a deeper understanding of the interests and aspirations of their residents and improving the quality of conversations and relationships as a result. Over the past 12 months, I have heard

stories about the ingenuity of care staff and how they have used technology to enrich the lives of residents and keep them in touch with relatives during the pandemic. From interactive live music sessions

over Zoom to FaceTime church services, mass donations of iPads to uplifting clips of residents posted on Facebook – there has been a noticeable increase in the adoption of digital tools in the sector. Yet despite lockdown normalising • June 2021

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