How can technology shape the way we care?
by Madeleine Starr MBE, Head of Innovation at Carers UK
Modern family life demands modern, technological solutions to help us care. Social media, smartphones and online tools have brought about huge shifts in how many of us manage our lives - for work, childcare, socialising and shopping. But the potential for technology to step in to save time, money and stress for carers has not yet been realised.
Many of us use shared calendars to check colleagues' availability at work - why don't we have access to this kind of technology between family members when we are planning who is going to look after mum this weekend?
Booking holidays, buying insurance, browsing reviews of products and services has become second-nature for many families. Yet if you want to book care for an adult disabled child or an ill partner because you are going away for a few days, the technology simply isn't there.
Some progress has been made. To different extents, local councils are testing the water with telecare and telehealthcare - in-home monitoring and health technology. This existing use of technology, and other examples of innovation, has shown some of the real opportunities technology presents to deliver on independence for people needing care, peace of mind and reduced stress for family members, and potential savings for public services by reducing avoidable hospital and residential care admissions.
But we have been slow to truly embrace technology in this aspect of our lives. This highlights a real challenge for those of us who work in the care sector. For too long, negative perceptions of ageing, caring and disability have seen how we manage care as a hidden and private issue or a 'burden' to be managed - rather than as a fundamental shift in our society and families which presents real opportunities as well as challenges.
As the Government prepares to publish a White Paper on the future of social care, we need to seize the opportunity to shift these perceptions. That is why Carers UK has launched a new project with partners including Microsoft and the Technology Strategy Board, and called on the Government to set up a new care and technology taskforce, to look at how technology has the capacity not only to respond to our changing lives and better support families who care, but also to deliver innovation and growth in the technology market.
Read the news release at http://www.carersuk.org/newsroom/item/2530-how-technology-can-help-families-to-care and a new Carers UK report Care and Technology in the 21st Century is available at www.carersuk.org/professionals/resources/research-library