Editor Steve picks up on a sad situation and poses a question.
Mrs Foster was an 81-year-old Surrey woman with dementia who lived at home supported by visits from agency carers four times a day. This appears to have been a reasonable state of affairs until the UK Border Agency closed down the agency owing to allegations that they were employing illegal immigrants. The local council had been notified in advance so that it could put alternative arrangements in place for the agency’s clients but Mrs Foster seems to have slipped through the net. Unable to look after herself, she was left starving, dehydrated and without her medication. Nine days later she was found by a visiting nurse and admitted to hospital, where she died. Starved pensioner Gloria Foster died “with a total feeling of being lost” Surrey Comet.
We do not know yet if Mrs Foster had a pendant-type alarm or not but if she did she was obviously unable to use it. We can infer that she did not have any of the type of telecare that could have raised an alert passively. We can also work out that a system dependent on PIRs picking up movement would not have raised the alarm before she became immobile and may have been too late.
This story broke on the day when the UK media is preoccupied with the publication of the Francis Inquiry report into why NHS systems failed hundreds of patients who died from neglect in hospital. But how confident are we that flaws in our care systems are not contributing to the deaths of many people every day, unnoticed because the people are ‘invisible’ in the community?
It is organisational hubris to assume that everything will work properly, indefinitely. Systems fail in ways that cannot be anticipated because the failures that can be anticipated are the ones you take steps to prevent or mitigate. The right technology can make even the best systems – and how many care organisations have those? – more robust.
Every council, every social housing provider and everyone else with a responsibility to people living alone who are unable to look after themselves should now be asking what technology is available that will raise an alert if someone is unconscious or otherwise unable to raise an alarm when things go wrong. Technologies to do that have been available since before Telecare Aware started. Some are low-cost in comparison with ‘standard telecare packages’ so there is no excuse for them not to be more widely used.
The question is: What are you doing to make your systems more robust?