Apps and technology to help carers
As a carer it’s likely you’ll always be on the look out for ways to make your life a bit easier.
But you might not have thought about how technology and the internet can help when it comes to caring.
Using the internet
Using the internet to order shopping, do banking tasks or deal with patient GP records can help carers to manage busy and often complex lives. Once you get started doing things online is quick, easy and can save a trip out to the bank or shops.
Learn My Way has free online courses about using the internet including doing online shopping, online banking, using social media and internet safety.
If you are eligible for a carer personal budget, you may be able to use it to buy a device or to pay course fees to help get you online. This would only be possible if using online services could help you meet your needs as a carer and would be subject to a carers assessment.
Many carers communicate with each other through online forums and groups. Forums are a great way of getting support from people in a similar situation.
There are a range of apps for smartphones, tablets and computers that can help you organise care for the person you support. Some are free to download while others cost a few pounds.
Group sharing apps for carers
Jointly is a mobile and online application created by carers for carers, in partnership with Carers UK. It allows all the people involved with caring for a person to share information and keep track of who in the caring circle is doing what. It combines group messaging with shared to-do lists, medication lists, calendars and contacts.
As a member of the group you can add things to the joint to-do list, such as taking the person you care for to an appointment, and the others in the group can volunteer to help out. You also have a profile of the person you care for where you can store all their medical information and emergency contacts in one place so that all members of the group can access it quickly.
Jointly costs £2.99 to download – but it’s only the person who set’s up the circle who has to pay, you can invite as many people to join the circle as you like without additional charge.
CaringBridge works in a very similar way to Jointly. It is free to download and allows you to connect with family and friends who are helping to look after the person you care for.
If you are the main carer for the person you look after, apps like Jointly, Rally Round and CaringBridge are a great way of asking other family members and friends for help as well as keeping them up-to-date.
Rally Round works in a similiar way to Jointly and Caring Bridge but is website based raher than an app. It features do to lists, notifcation alerts and a noticeboard. Rally Round is free.
NB. The apps listed above are not endorsed by Carers in Derbyshire and are listed simply as a starting point for you to do your own research about which apps may work for you. Remember to take steps to stay safe online.
Mobile devices and apps are increasingly are being used to look after health, wellbeing and fitness. You may be able to find an app that helps you manage the condition of the person you care for. The myhealthapps.net website has a directory of apps about health conditions.
The patient.co.uk app has a database of information leaflets on health, conditions and diseases. It also allows you to locate health services and quickly find phone numbers of services including pharmacies and hospitals in your area.
Tracking apps and devices
Many modern smartphones have a built in Global Positioning System (GPS) which is a navigational aid that uses signals from satellites to track the whereabouts of the device. You can also buy stand-alone GPS devices such as a wristband and even a system you put in the bottom of your shoe! You track the GPS device by logging into an accompanying desktop computer, laptop, tablet or phone application and it will show you on a map the whereabouts of the device.
GPS is useful if you care for someone who is able to get out and about independently, but may just need someone to keep an eye on them and check they are okay - such as someone with visual impairments, early onset dementia, autism or learning disabilities. You must consider issues such as consent - is the person happy for you to track where they are? The Alzheimer's Society have advice about this.
Unforgettable is a website selling helpful products aimed at people with dementia, but their GPS tracker products could be useful for a wide range of people. The Alzheimer's Society also have advice about technology and have their own shop.
If the person you care for has a smartphone, search whichever app store they use (e.g iTunes or Google Play) for GPS trackers to download onto their device. Apple phones have 'find my friends' or 'find my iPhone' which are free of charge.
Although telecare is aimed at helping the person you care for, it can help make life easier for carers in many ways. For example, it reduces the need to make ‘just in case’ checks and offers reassurance. If you’re caring for a husband, wife, relative or friend, you could have the chance to enjoy some much needed ‘me’ time knowing that telecare would let someone know if there was a problem.
Telecare uses sensors to detect if there is a problem such as fire in the home or whether the person using the telecare has fallen or wandered. Sensors can be worn as a pendant, bracelet or watch or may be positioned throughout the home. There are sensors that can tell if someone has got out of bed (and doesn’t get back in within a certain time), whether a door has been opened (I.e in the middle of the night) and even dispense medication at set times.
If a sensor picks up a problem, alerts are then sent to a group of nominated responders or a monitoring centre who can then respond to the problem detected.
You can contact Call Derbyshire on tel: 01629 533190 for further information about telecare. Or if you'd like to buy telecare privately, websites such as the Telecare Services Association and Living Made Easy are a good place to start.
There is a new inititative from British Gas called Hive. It is a system of smart plugs and sensors, which use pattern detection to get to know the routine of the person you care about. For example when they put the kettle on each day and it will send out an alert if the front door is left open for longer than usual. There is a cost involved, and the plugs and sensors have to be purchased. See Hivehome for further information..
You can also get carer pagers. This is a system where you have a pager unit that is remotely connected to a call button that the person you care for wears around their neck. If the person call for help, the alert goes to you instead of a call centre. This could be helpful for if you want to do some gardening while the person you look after stays indoors. They aren't designed to work over a large distance, but would work in and around the home.
Aids and equipment
Aids and equipment may be able to help the person you care for carry out certain tasks independently and reduce the pressure on you. For instance, special knives and forks may mean they can eat independently and don't need your help. You can find all sorts of aids and equipment on the Ask Sara website. It even has an assessment function where you answer a series of questions to work out which equipment would be most useful.
Other helpful websites
- Carers UK - technology and equipment
- Derbyshire County Council - help to live at home
- Carers Trust - getting started with online shopping
- Online carer communities and advice lines
- NHS website - accessing health records
- Tunstall - telecare and telehealth to help carers
- The Royal Institute for the Blind - apps and technology
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