Married couple's invention could revolutionise the UK care system, as budgets cut for elderly social care(January 30, 2012)
As a report published today by Age UK ('Care in Crisis') shows that spending on social care for older people has fallen by half a billion pounds since 2010, Mark Bates, owner - with wife Helen - of SendTech Ltd and inventor of SeNCit (a multi-function care monitor for the elderly, those with Alzheimer's and other disabilities) says that families strapped for cash will look to technology to provide solutions.
"Age UK's report says there are 2m people in England with care needs," says Mark, "and 800,000 of these people are not getting any formal support, so they are struggling to cope on a day-to-day basis. A lot of these people are going without vital human help in areas such as washing and feeding; help that they absolutely need. However, some of these people can still lead independent lives for much of the time, but they need keeping tabs on, and it is this section of society that technology can help, in the absence of a fully functioning care-at-home system in the UK."
Helen and Mark Bates, who have run a successful business technology company together from their home in Maidenhead for ten years, invented the affordable monitoring device when they were worried about members of their own family. SeNCit means people can delay going into a care home for months, maybe even years, allowing them to live independent lives in their own homes for longer, reducing the worry for relatives, and saving a considerable amount of money on care home fees.
In a nutshell, SeNCit is a small, affordable device that you pop up on the wall in the individual’s house, that texts friends or relatives when there might be cause for concern, when, for example:
- 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.
Local authorities are starting to take notice of this cost-effective system, as their own care budgets are squeezed. Both Dundee City Council and Herefordshire County Council have started installing SeNCit in the houses of its vulnerable residents.
Helen says: “Many people are simply not ready to go into care homes, but need some sort of monitoring, as they are vulnerable on their own. Mark’s great-aunt died following a fall at home which led to her getting hypothermia as she wasn’t discovered for some time. This made us worry more about our own ageing parents and so we invented a device that would allow us to keep tabs on them, from a distance. Everyone wins using SeNCit: they feel independent, and we have peace of mind.”
Mark says: “Coming up with the idea for SeNCit has meant we worry much less. Before, we would imagine the worst when they didn’t answer the phone or return our calls. Now 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.
Councils are becoming interested in SeNCit too as they are being forced to make major cutbacks in their social-care budgets, and SeNCit can offer 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. 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.
Notes to Editors:
Local council interest:
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 installed 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 thinks “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”.
How it works:
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.
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.
- The service operates on pay as you go or contract, with text costing between 4p and 10p depending on the mobile phone service provider.
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
Case studies of users of SeNCit - full details available
- Situation: Amputee with live-in carer
Users: Mr & Mrs C, Ashford, Middlesex
Main Usage: Regular Movement Check
- Situation: Ex-Soldier suffers from epilepsy
Users: Mr P – Herefordshire
Client: First Contact – Herts CC
Main Usage: Regular Movement Check
- Situation: Re-enablement – mother discharged from hospital
Users: Mrs G – Dundee
Product: SeNCit+D (with door sensor)
Main Usage: Door Exit Alert + Night Movement
- Situation: Re-enablement and welfare monitoring
Users: Mr & Mrs M – Cornwall
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.