Car­ing for el­derly us­ingg tech needs a ‘code of con­duct’

Computer Active (UK) - - Letters -

In Is­sue 513 (News, page 7) you ask for read­ers’ views on how tech­nol­ogy should be used to help el­derly peo­ple re­quir­ing so­cial care. It’s a vi­tal ques­tion, and I’m glad that my favourite mag­a­zine is rais­ing it.

The most im­por­tant point I want to make is that we shouldn’t dis­miss tech­nol­ogy as sim­ply cost-cut­ting. Your news story sug­gests that Es­sex County Coun­cil is us­ing Skype rather than face-to-face vis­its as a way to save money. I don’t know whether that’s the case, but it’s not nec­es­sar­ily a bad thing. We all know how ex­pen­sive it is to care for our age­ing pop­u­la­tion, so spend­ing money wisely is im­per­a­tive. Also, think of the time a care worker could save by con­tact­ing pa­tients on video, rather than driv­ing to their house.

There’s a cru­cial ‘but’, though. The amount of per­son-to-per­son time that pa­tients re­ceive mustn’t drop. There’s no point sav­ing time and money if pa­tients feel more lonely as a re­sult, which in the long-term will end up cost­ing us more in deal­ing with con­di­tions like de­men­tia. As char­i­ties al­ways say, re­search shows that lone­li­ness is a silent killer. El­derly peo­ple of­ten don’t like to com­plain about feel­ing lonely and de­pressed be­cause they don’t want to make a fuss.

It’s clear that more and more coun­cils will try tech­no­log­i­cal so­lu­tions to so­cial-care prob­lems, and they are right to do so. But they must recog­nise the anx­i­ety of pa­tients and their rel­a­tives. Per­haps they should come to­gether to work on a ‘code of con­duct’ guar­an­tee­ing that in the rush to use gad­gets, the dig­nity of pa­tients won’t get over­looked. I’m sure it would be wel­comed by so­ci­ety.

Gor­don Cham­ber­lain

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