Josh Hough, managing director and founder of CareLineLive
According to the Office of National Statistics, the UK’s population is ageing rapidly. By the middle of this century, the median age in the UK will be 43 years, with the number of those aged 85 and over set to double by 2050. Research from Age UK has also revealed that nearly one-third of elderly people in need of a residential care bed will not find one in their immediate postcode district. This has resulted in a surging demand for homecare that isn’t likely to subside.
When we consider the provision of home care, elderly and vulnerable clients are quite rightly first and foremost in our minds. However, families, friends, home care agency managers and carers are all part of the wider community that are stakeholders in the caregiving. For home care to work effectively, everyone in this circle of care must be connected appropriately to benefit the person at the centre of the care.
Technology can help us to manage this circle of care while ensuring that clients themselves receive the very best care and all care needs are met appropriately.
Increasing the efficiency of home care management
The domiciliary care sector has played a crucial role throughout the pandemic, with everybody involved going above and beyond to ensure our elderly and vulnerable receive the best care possible. But the pressure caused by the pandemic has revealed some inefficiencies within the system that may otherwise have gone unnoticed. If these inefficiencies are addressed, it could lighten the load on our carers and make the sector more resilient, efficient and adaptable as a whole.
This is where technology is having a measurable impact, both in terms of manager and carer productivity and quality of care given. Digitising processes like rostering helps managers to make rota changes very quickly and communicate them in real-time. Equally, automating payroll and invoicing reduces time taken to manually reconcile timesheets and also allows easy calculation of payment for mileage and travel time. The ultimate benefit is that technology is giving managers and carers more time to care.
Helping carers deliver person-centred care
Carers want to give bespoke person-centred care to their clients to ensure they are receiving the best possible treatment at any point in time. Yet outdated processes and legacy systems are having a direct impact on the quality of care they are able to give.
It is typical that someone receiving home care will have between one to three visits a day, and sometimes their carer will change. Technology is extremely useful in this instance, as it allows the handover process to be streamlined. The first carer can share information specific to the individual that is instantly available to the next carer, which allows for that person’s individual needs to be accounted for.
Equally, medication records can be updated to reflect whether they have been administered or missed, which informs the next carer on whether they need to take additional action. With all notes visible to office staff, care activity can be monitored closely and families can be kept up to date. Ultimately, this type of care allows carers to put the individual at the heart of the discussion, ensuring their care is being looked at in detail and they are given the time they deserve.
Providing families with reassurance
While the pandemic has made it harder for families to visit and stay in touch with their loved ones, technology has played a crucial role in keeping them connected. To complete the circle of care between families, friends, agencies and carers, technology provides insights and peace of mind that helps to reassure the loved ones of those in care, particularly with in-person visits prohibited.
For example, friends and family can have convenient online access in order to receive updates on medication, notes and details of visits. Not only does this help them to feel better connected, but it improves transparency and trust between care agencies and customers too. As well as keeping families informed, technology opens up communication channels for agencies, so that they can maintain the highest standards of care possible.
The care sector is an essential part of our nation and has been for a long time. In the coming years, our reliance on the sector is likely to grow, so we owe it to ourselves and each other to invest in it and look after it. The pandemic has thrown a spotlight on homecare, highlighting its increasing importance within social care as our population ages. Following the pandemic, it will continue to play an important role as more and more people opt to receive care at home.
The circle of care needs all the support that is available, and technology can help us make it increasingly empowered. The government’s recent ‘Help to Grow: Digital’ scheme that offers small businesses a discount of up to 50% on the costs of approved software, worth up to £5,000, is a step in the right direction. As this scheme is developed, the government should ensure that the discounts available include homecare management software to enable home care providers, and importantly their clients, to reap the benefits of technology.