People with special needs such as disability, learning disability, dementia among other find it hard to live on their own. They have to be supported by other to live a more quality life. However, reliance on other also does have negative effects on their privacy, confidentiality and independencies. The best thing is that technology is enabling people with special needs live on their own with less or no direct support from other individual.
This essay aim to explain how technology is helping people with special needs and more specifically dementia and physical impairment to live an independent live.
1.1explain how technology can be used to support users of health and social care services in living independently
Technology has and continues to make the life of people with special needs more independent. A number of technologies have been developed to support people with special needs live their life without depend much on other. These types of technologies are referred to as assistive technology (Smith and Hartwel N.d). According to Tinoco et al (2002) assistive technology refers to system or equipments which are designed to help people with difficulties caused by older age and disability perform essential function/activities need for independent living.
In our case scenario there are several assistive technologies that can be used by Sally, who is losing her mobility, to continue living an independent life just like she did before. To compensate the loss of her mobility, sally can used wheel chair. Wheelchair is chair fitted with wheel to enable occupants move from one point to another. Alternatively, sally can also use scooter for easier movement not only within the home, but also outside enabling her perform activities such as shopping, attending to work, visiting and socializing with family, friend among other. In the absences of such technology, Sally would have needed someone to be around at all time to provide the necessary support including helping with essential chore like cooking, going to bed, going to job etc. This would compromise the independence she used to enjoy. However, with assistive technology such as crutches, wheelchair or scooter, the needs for such person is eliminated.
People with other special need different from that of sally can also be supported to live independently through the use of assistive technology. For instance, assistive technology can be used to allow people with challenging behaviour live alone in their home. Sensors and Automatic door lock can be used to detect wandering and prevent them. Fire detector, accident detector CCVT can also be used to monitor other form of challenging behaviour.
People with dementia can also be support through assistive technology to live independently. Reminder devices can be used to compensate memory loss. It can be used remind them to do activities such as taking medication, bathing, taking meal etc (Icareteam 2004).
For people with, vision impairment, image enlarger devices can be used to make number, letter and words more visible.
Using assistive technology to support individuals with special needs is not without its own challenges. There are several factors that may prevent sally from accessing and using assistive technology.
Financial cost is one of the major hindrances in the use of assistive technology. The prices of assistive technology remain high which lock many people with special needs from accessing them (Cornell 2009). Unless proper financial support is provided to them, they will continue to be locked out.
Cultural barrier – the norm, values and belief held by a society may acts as barrier to the use of assistive technology. Some culture may negatively influence the perception of people toward assistive technology discouraging people with special needs from using them (Cornell 2009). To break the culture barrier, educating the servicer user and the community on the benefits and important of using assistive technology can achieve greater milestone.
Lack of skill-using some of the assistive technology requires the user to have some skills. For instance, for Sally to benefit from powered wheelchair or from the scooter, she needs to have some skills on how to operate them. Lack of the proper skills may therefore act as barrier to the use of technology. Although skills can be learned there are some barriers to learning such skills. These may includes lack of time to learn due to tight schedules, psychological barrier to learning, loss of cognitive ability such is in dementia patient among other (Eizmendi, Azkoitia, and Craddock, 2007)
1.3 explain the benefits of these technologies to health and social care organizations and their users
The uses of technology in case of sally and Maggie have several benefits not only to them but also to their care provider. To begin with, the assistive technology compensates their loss of bodily functions, enabling them to have greater control over their life (Sagstetter 2002). In case of sally, assistive technology would enable her to continue being self –reliant and enjoy independence just like she did before losing her bodily function.
Secondly, assistive technology also led to increased level of privacy and confidentiality. Assistive technology eliminates the need of physical presence of care which in many cases negatively affect the privacy and confidentiality of the servicer user. Through assistive technology, Sally is able to live on her own which mean improved level of privacy and confidentiality.
Thirdly, assistive technologies also increase the productive of individual with disability. The loss of bodily function such as mobility, vision impairment among other may negatively affect the productivity of individual in work, schools and in home (Sagstetter 2002). In case of sally, the uses of crutches, scooter or wheelchair will enable her to continue participating and being productive in different activities in home as well as in her work.
Assistive technology has also made it possible for passive monitoring of health and wellbeing of people with special needs. For instance, Telehealth has is made it possible of diagnosis and prescription of medication without the needs of visiting physician or general practice. This result to greater health, increased servicer user satisfaction and improved quality of life (Banes 2015)
2.1 Health and safety considerations in the use of technologies in health and social care
Assistive technology offer greater benefits to the servicer user as well as to care provider. However, at the same time it is associated with some health and safety risks (DH 2012). To protect the patient from technology that endangers their life, the health and safety Act 1974 come into play. According to this law, care provider should always protect the servicer from object, equipments, infrastructure, people or arrangement that endangers their health and safety. Precaution should therefore be taken serious before using or recommending any assistive technology to servicer user.
Before, recommending any assistive technology to sally and Maggie, it is important to take into consideration the health and safety risks attached to such technology (DH 2012). In case of Sally, the uses of crutches, wheelchair or scooter is not without it healthy and safety risks. Cases of falling may be encounter and technical breakdown may be maybe experienced. These may Risk the healthy and safety of Sally. It is important that changes of such incidence are analysed and proper mechanism put in place to eliminate them.
Understanding the health and safety issues surrounding any assistive technology is of greater importance as it helps in planning to prevent or minimise the negative effects it might have on user. In case of Sally, the healthy and safety issue surrounding the use of wheelchair, scooter or crutch cab be minimised by educating them how to use them properly and by using falls monitoring devices such as sensor among other.
There are several ethical issues that are associated with the use of assistive technology. Ethic is defined as system of moral principle which determines what is wrong and what is right in a society (BBC 2015). According to Ward (1989), there are four ethical principles that guide care in health and social care setting theses includes;
- Non-maleficence-this involves not doing any harm to servicer user
- Beneficence – putting the interest of servicer user first (intention to do good)
- Autonomy – promoting the rights of self-determination, privacy, freedom, and choice
- Justice – Giving everybody equal opportunity
The use of assistive technology though beneficial may lead to breaching of these principles if inappropriately used.
The privacy of servicer user remains very important in supporting individual with special needs. However, the use of technology may led to breach of this principle.for instance, in case of sally and Maggie , sensors and other monitoring devices may be used to monitor accidents and falls. Although such technologies are meant to promote independent living, inappropriate use of them may breach their safety. For instance, installing sensors or CCTV in sally bedroom (where a lot of privacy is required) to monitor fall may be in violation of privacy principle.
Ethical issue also arises where freedom of servicer user is limited by assistive technology. Some of the assistive technology may limit the freedom enjoyed by the servicer user. For instance, in promoting independence of people with dementia, assistive technology such as automatic door lock may be used to prevent wandering. Although such technologies are meant to promote independent living they at the same time limits the freedom of the servicer user if used inappropriately.
In some cases assistive technology may be used to promote the interest of the care provider rather than that of servicer user. For instance, carer provider may use assistive technology to achieve efficiency of operation and convenience but not to promote independent living of the servicer uses. For instance, automatic doors lock may be used to lock people with dementia in their home to allow care give time off the care obligation. It is therefore important to ensure that, assistive technology are used based on the interest of servicer user rather than that of care provider.
2.3 explain the impact of recent and emerging technological developments on health and social care services, organizations and care workers
The advancement in assistive technology is changing the way care service is delivery in health and social care setting. It is also affecting the role of the care workers.
The advancement of assistive technologies are increases the effectiveness and efficiency in delivery of healthcare services. For instance, the introduction of telecare in NHS is making it possible for organization to offer care services without the need of being physically presences. Telehealth on the other hand is making it possible for diagnosis of disease and prescription of medicine without the need for visiting physician. This saves cost and time spent of travelling for both healthcare organization and the servicer user (Cartwright, Wade and Shaw 2011). The use of assistive technology is also increasing the effectiveness of the care services. For instance the uses of technology such sensors such a fall detector, fire detector, etc have made it possible to identify accidents as they happen which help minimizes their impacts on servicer user.
Assistive technology also have some impact on the care worker.it has made the role of care worker easier, productive and effective. The needs for carer workers to commutate and go after servicer user are gone. Care worker can simply monitor and supports servicer user just right in their office through the use of telecare. According to Worah (2013), the level of stress, anxiety, discomfort have for long time been high on care worker especially during night. They spend sleepless night monitoring the servicer user. Assistive technology has eliminated such discomfort, worries and anxiety as accident, falls or relating issues can be easily detected and communicated. To use assistive technology effectively in health and social care setting, staffs need to update their skills. They need to be skilled in using such technology.
Maggie who is affected by dementia has several care needs that must be met. According to webMd.com (2015), Dementia is a progressive disease which goes through different stage. As the disease goes through different stage, it impacts become more severe increasing the need for more support. According to Alzheimer society (2015),as dementia progress through different stage, the patient continue to loss their cognitive ability, become more sensitive, and may show wide range of challenging behavior such as wandering, hair pulling, throwing object among other. Maggie who is at her early stage with dementia has already shown sign of wandering and loss of cognitive ability. Her family are worried that she is leave her home at night to unknown destination. This increases her safety risks. Equally, as she leaves her home she forgets to take her medication and meal. This put her health at stake. As the disease progress to other stages, her cognitive ability will continue to become weaker; she may become more sensitive to interaction and she challenges services in different way. This will increase the needs for care support. It is therefore important that Maggie is probably supported to ensure her health and safety is not at increased risk.
By wandering during night and skipping both medication and meal, Maggie health and safety is likely to be negatively affected if proper support is not provided to her. To offer support to Maggie in a manner that encourage independent living, different assistive techno logy can be used.
Door sensors and automatic looks can be used to prevent Maggie from wandering during the night.the sensors make it possible to detect when a person is leaving the compound(Alzheimer society 2015) to compliment sensor automatic door lock can be used to block Maggie from leaving the home during night.
Calendar, clock, reminder devices, locator devices can be used to compensate memory loss in Maggie cases. They can be used to ensure Maggie always take her medication as prescribed and also take meal as recommended, reminder should be used. According to Alzheimer society (2015), the use of the above tools and devices is a very effective of compensating the loss of cognitive ability in dementia patients.
Dementia increases changes of accidents (Alzheimer society 2015)). To prevent Maggie from accidents, technology can be used to detect and report accident as they occur. This would help in immediate response which reduces the impact of such accidents. Example of technology that can be used to detect and report accidence in Maggie home includes carbon monoxide detector to report fire incidences, sensors to report falls, CCTV to monitor challenging behaviour, communication devices to enable Maggie ask emergency help when in needs.
For some of this technology to work effectively, Maggie needs to be trained on how to use them. For instance, emergency communication devices can only work if Maggie is trained on how to use them. However, Maggie ability to uses such devices will diminish as the diseases progress. It is therefore important that technology is not seen as a complete solution to support for Maggie.
According to Sagstetter (2012), Assistive technology has proved to be very useful in helping service user take control of their live, be more productive in their works, home and schools and participate fully in the community . According to Banes (2015) Assistive technology has proved to be the best barrier- breaker that for so long has prevented people with disabilities and special needs from living meaningful and quality life.
In our case scenario, assistive technologies enable sally and Maggie to live and independent live. They enable Sally move around even after losing her mobility function. Without assistive technology, sally would have been forced to quit her career or relies on other for support. In case of Maggie assistive technology compensate her weakening cognitive ability, and protect her from the increased health and safety risk associated with dementia.
The usefulness of technology to servicer user can never be underrated. The use of assistive technology is enabling people with special needs do activities and function that they were unable to do before. For instance, it enable mobility move around, it improve the learning outcome in people with learning disability, it enabling people lift object they were unable to lift before, it is compensating memory loss caused by dementia and many more.
It is with no doubt that assistive technology is impact positively to the live of people with special needs. It breaking barrier that initially prevented them from living independent, participate in community activities, explore their full potential in social life, in their home and in their career. However, if used inappropriately, assistive technology can lead to compromise of key principle of care which include privacy, confidentiality, choice and freedom.
Although technology is improving the care support for people with special needs it should not be heavily relied on, to an extent of forget the importance of human contact in the care process. Assistive technology should therefore not be used to replace human aspect of care but to compliment it.