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New telecare device allowing the elderly to stay in their own homes for longer

(December 08, 2011)

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As worrying stories about care homes and the care system are hitting the UK press on a daily basis, and the Government announces plans to roll-out telehealth technologies nationwide, a new telecare device is already allowing many elderly and vulnerable people to stay in their own homes, living independent lives for longer.

Local authorities are also turning to this more cost-effective system, which in many cases can delay putting residents into care homes. 

Dundee City Council and Herefordshire County Council have installed this home-care monitoring device called SeNCit in the houses of three of its vulnerable residents.  In Dundee, the device was installed in the house of an elderly woman in sheltered accommodation, who suffered from dementia and her family were concerned that she may wander out of the house at night time. 

In Herefordshire, the council install SeNCit in the house of a former soldier, who had returned from Afghanistan and was suffering from epilepsy.

Dundee Council have said “their interest in SeNCit is unprecedented”. Slough Council think “it’s genius” and Nottingham Council have said “at last someone has thought about what is needed and brought a product to the table that fulfils this”.

In a nutshell, SeNCit is a small, affordable device that you pop up on the wall in their house, that texts friends or relatives when there might be cause for concern, when:

  • There is NO movement in the vulnerable person’s home for a certain amount of time, or within certain hours
  • The temperature drops below a certain level
  • The front door is opened within certain hours.  

SeNCit contains a SIM card that can store up to five mobile or landline numbers and the PIR technology that can detect body heat up to 10 metres. Mounted on a wall in a room in the house that the resident has to regularly pass through, often the hall, the alarm will be programmed to detect movement at three key times throughout the day, for example, morning, lunchtime and evening. 

If no movement is detected during the programme times when movement is expected, SeNCit will send a text to the numbers on the SIM card, alerting them to the fact there has been no movement, giving them the opportunity to act on this information. 

This means relatives and friends of the vulnerable and elderly can subtly monitor their daily movements, knowing that if their relative/friend were to become ill or incapacitated, SeNCit would detect the lack of movement and alert the carer by sending a text message to their mobile phone. 

What makes SeNCit unique:

  • The elderly/vulnerable individual does not have to raise the alarm or remember to wear a device;
  • It’s multi-functional, compact and discreet, meaning the elderly/vulnerable individual feels safe but not stigmatised;
  • Its running costs can be as low as a few pence a month, so with many councils forced to make cutbacks in their social-care budgets, SeNCit is a cost-effective way of keeping an eye on the most vulnerable members of society;
  • It offers ultimate peace of mind for concerned relatives/friends and will, hopefully, help them to avoid late-night dashes to check on their elderly/vulnerable relative or friend 
  • It will alert the relative or friend if there is a mains power cut, and then again if the back-up battery is running low. 

As well as detecting lack of movement, SeNCit and SeNCit+ which includes a wireless door sensor also has a number of other functions, including:

  • A thermometer that will detect if the house temperature has dropped below 18C;
  • The wireless door sensor device will alert relatives/friends of the vulnerable/elderly individual has wandered out of the house by sending a text message if they open the door;
  • The door sensor device can also alert relatives/friends of the vulnerable/elderly individual if a carer has not visited when they were expected to;
  • If there is a power cut, SeNCit will send a text message;
  • SeNCit can also act as a home-security device and be programmed to alert individuals to movement in a house when a house is unattended.
  • Also, if a relative is showing alarming habits – e.g. getting up to go to the toilet more in the night could mean a water infection, which could be serious. 

SeNCit is the brainchild of Mark and Helen Bates, directors of SeNd Technology, a ten-year old company that specialises in developing technology that allows machinery to communicate with humans via text message so that when they need maintenance or have gone into fault, the engineers or equipment owners know instantly. 

Mark and Helen came up with the idea for SeNCit when Mark’s great-aunt died following a fall at home which led to her getting hypothermia as she wasn’t discovered for some time.  They were also worried about their own ageing parents and so, when they produced SeNCit, they installed it in both sets of parents’ homes two years ago.  

Mark says: “Both of our parents have illnesses that cause us great concern and as we don’t live near them and we lead busy lives, we wanted to find a way of caring for them without having to consider the care-home option just yet. 

“Coming up with the idea for SeNCit has offered great peace of mind. Before we would worry when they didn’t answer the phone or return our calls: with Sen-Cit I know if they are still moving around in their home, I know exactly how warm their home is, and I know whether the front door has opened or not – which also helps greatly if they are travelling back home from somewhere, as I know that they have got there safely.  

"We have a number of councils interested in SeNCit too as they are being forced to make major cutbacks in their social-care budgets, SeNCit offers a cost-effective alternative to home helps."  

Helen points out that, according to government statistics, by 2050 19 million people will be over 65. “Anyone with ageing relatives knows how difficult it can be when you worry about their vulnerability at home, but are, understandably, loathe to put them into a care home.  Especially at this time of year when the temperature is dropping and at Christmas when everyone is so busy and normal routines go out of the window.  The problem with the existing home solutions – such as panic buttons that people are suppose to wear - is that the elderly person has to manage them themselves, and this inevitably leads to mistakes and accidental misuse.

“We knew that the technology we have spent 10 years developing for big corporate clients could be adapted to really help give peace of mind to people in this predicament. SeNCit really does mean that you will always know if your relative is in trouble, and the beauty of it is that you can install it in the home of your relative of and then the elderly person can forget about it entirely. It is small and unobtrusive, but gives a huge feeling of safety to the vulnerable person, and huge peace of mind to the relative. 

SeNCit is available from www.sendtech.co.uk/SeN-Cit and costs £198 including VAT.  

-Ends- 

Notes to editors 

About SeNCit

  • The service operates on pay as you go or contract, with text costing between 4p and 10p depending on the mobile phone service provider
  • SeNCit is reliable: it will text the relative/carer if there is a mains power cut, or if the back-up battery is running low, as below:

After main power failure (power cut or someone unplugging SeNCit) it will wait a few minutes to make sure it’s not just a power “blip” then send the power cut alert SMS, then (after a couple of hours or so) it will send “SeNCit battery low please reconnect main power” then just before it turns off it sends a last message “SeNCit battery too low – SeNCit will switch off…”

Case studies of users of SeNCit

  • Situation: Amputee with live-in carer
    Users: Mr & Mrs C, Ashford, Middlesex
    Client: Family
    Product: SeNCit
    Main Usage: Regular Movement Check
  • Situation: Ex-Soldier suffers from epilepsy
    Users: Mr P – Herefordshire
    Client: First Contact – Herts CC
    Product: SeNCit
    Main Usage: Regular Movement Check
  • Situation: Re-enablement – mother discharged from hospital
    Users: Mrs G – Dundee
    Client: Family
    Product: SeNCit+D (with door sensor)
    Main Usage: Door Exit Alert + Night Movement
  • Situation: Re-enablement and welfare monitoring
    Users: Mr & Mrs M – Cornwall
    Client: Family
    Product: SeNCit
    Main Usage: Falls monitor, temperature
  • Situation: Exit Sensing
    Users: Miscellaneous Lady
    Client: Dundee City Council/Family
    Product: SeNCit +
    Main Usage: Room Temperature Monitor 

Ageing population statistics

10 million people in the UK are over 65 years old. 

The latest projections are for 5½ million more elderly people in 20 years time and the number will have nearly doubled to around 19 million by 2050.

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