Avoiding the crisis

A short video to show how technology can help us gain greater insights into how someone is coping at home. If we can identify specific issues, like not eating at mealtimes, they can be dealt with before it reaches crisis point.

Information helps everyone feel more in control of the situation and able to make better, more informed decisions. That has to be a good thing, doesn’t it?

Unblocking hospital beds

Canary in Coventry

Lord Carter’s report today suggests that bed blocking costs the NHS £900m a year “Vulnerable and frail patients cannot be released if there is not the support in the community from home care workers or district nursing staff or a place in a care home”.

Whilst, undoubtedly, social care is a key element to allow older and vulnerable people to be released from hospital and go home, there are other things that can be done to help support people and carers in the community.

The case study above from Coventry City Council shows how technology can play an enormous part in getting people home and keeping them at home. We know that independence is so important to older people and, if they are well enough, being at home, feeling safe and confident, has a positive impact on their health and wellbeing.

Information can play a vital role in helping us care better and more effectively – not just to provide the much needed cost savings but to ensure people get the right care, at the right time. Technology can provide this information – the insight, for example, that someone isn’t going into the kitchen at mealtimes, or that they are not putting themselves to bed or getting up several times in the night.

By gathering this information, we can understand a person’s individual needs better – and look after them, better. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Canary talks about how technology helps provide better care on 5 Live


Live interview on Radio 5 Live on 22nd January 2016

Peter Allen (presenter):

Melanie Newdick, you use technology to help you care for your Mum

Melanie Newdick (who cares for her Mum who has dementia):

We do indeed, yes

We use a monitoring system called Canarycare, which we found on the internet. We’ve been using it for about 2 years and it means that we can dial in any time and see. It has monitors on the wall that show us where Mum is and where she has been moving around in the house


Like CCTV effectively is it?


Well it isn’t funnily enough which is one of the things we liked about it because homecare is done apparently where there is CCTV so this is just an infra red detector not a camera


You just pick up the fact that there has been movement detected in the room. We felt like CCTV was a bit of an invasion of Mum’s privacy to be honest so this was a really great system that gave us all the information

We get lots of information. We get movement which tells us things like whether she has been eating because we can see has she been long enough in the kitchen. It’s helped us understand her sleeping patterns. It also monitors temperature in the house so we know if the heating is working. It also monitors light and we have the door monitors fitted too so we can see who is coming in or out and whether Mum has gone out when perhaps she shouldn’t.

We can set up an alert so that if the door has opened and you chose how you receive the alert


So you could get a bleep on your phone saying have a look at this




Right, is it expensive, Melanie?


We bought our system and I think it was about £270 to buy and we pay about £15 a month for monitoring


So it’s not a fortune and presumably in terms of if you want to look at it in terms of a health spending perspective, you probably save someone a lot of money by doing it this way


I think we have and I think if we had looked at Mum’s dementia symptoms alone, we would have thought that she was deteriorating and she would have been heading for a home much earlier on but actually we know a lot of the problems are problems with sleep so yes I definitely think there are huge savings and also great peace of mind for us too.


Well that’s very interesting, thank you, Melanie. That’s a very positive story. Best of luck to you in the future. Stuart Sheehy, is Managing Director of Canary Care who supplied this technology to Melanie. Sounds like she has done the job for you really because she loves the system.

Stuart (Managing Director of Canary Care):

Yes it’s great for us to be able to help people like Melanie and her Mum using this technology and, you’re right, she has summed it up extremely well as to what we are trying to achieve with the technology and what the technology can do. It’s really about keeping people independent at home for longer, it’s about supporting carers and their families, giving them reassurance that their loved one is safe and well or giving them a message if there is something untoward…   if someone doesn’t go into the kitchen in the morning and they are still in bed then it allows you to intervene that little bit earlier, you can make a phone call, if a care visit needs to be changed and someone needs to pop in earlier then we can achieve that so it’s allowing the care system to adapt to the person that should be at the centre of the care package that is being delivered.


Yes and it gives you that monitoring ability……it doesn’t replace care does it but it means you can be a bit more specific about when and how you apply care


Absolutely, it’s about providing better, more timely care and yes this is absolutely not about minimising care, it’s about making the care as effective as possible and providing that care at the right time to the person when they need it


You may have heard the Government Minister saying we’re going to get involved in this sort of thing which sounds good, doesn’t it?


Yes, we’ve been partnering with Care City which is part of North East London Foundation Trust and Barking and Dagenham so this is actually bringing together the NHS and Social Services so that you can provide the appropriate care to individuals at home using both carers and health professionals as well.

Care & Technology – what are we scared of?



In most aspects of our lives, we value information. We seek out independent reviews before buying a new fridge, we check the weather forecast, we look at reports before choosing a school or university – we use technology to gather information to help us to make a more informed choice – to choose the fridge that’s right for us, to know when to go for a walk, to identify our preferred education option.

But when it comes to care, the shutters come down when we mention technology

“Yes but technology doesn’t replace human contact”

“Not sure Mum would like that”

“I don’t think we need it yet”

Let’s get one thing straight, TECHNOLOGY DOES NOT REPLACE HUMAN CARE. Of course, it doesn’t – and it’s not designed to. But what technology, like telecare, can do is help us make better, more informed choices about the care needed.

As Melanie Newdick, a carer and Non-Executive Director to NHS Highland said

Having information has totally transformed our understanding of my Mum’s dementia.

We can see that she wasn’t eating properly because we could see that she wasn’t in the kitchen long enough to prepare a meal; when the heating packed up we knew almost straight away because the temperature had dropped by one degree. More recently we’ve seen that her sleeping has become really erratic and we’ve been able to help with that.

By having information, we can identify changes in behaviour, we can see any areas where a little more support is needed, such as mealtimes or bedtimes, and we can make decisions based on fact.

Armed with information, we can make better decisions sooner – solving the issue and avoiding the crisis….therefore keeping people in their own homes and out of hospital for longer.

And those being cared for have said, according to Melanie Newdick:

…that having information has made them feel more in control. It’s given them the confidence to do things they haven’t done. It’s reduced their anxiety and worry because they can see how they are doing and they’ve made better choices because they can understand the impact of things upon their health. Just by having information they’ve made better choices. I think that’s pretty amazing.

Surely this is a better way to care – what are we scared of?


Using technology to make better choices

“My Mum has vascular dementia so we tried the telecare system – I’m sure you’ve heard of – it’s the button that you press if you have an emergency. She left the pendant on a hook beside her bed, she left it in the kitchen, she left it in the lounge, she left it everywhere apart from where it should have been (around her neck) so it wasn’t effective.

Then we tried a system called Canary Care. It’s a series of transmitters that pick up movement in every room in my Mum’s house. We can see that she wasn’t eating properly because we could see that she wasn’t in the kitchen long enough to prepare a meal; when the heating packed up we knew almost straight away because the temperature had dropped by one degree. More recently we’ve seen that her sleeping has become really erratic and we’ve been able to help with that.

Having information has totally transformed our understanding of my Mum’s dementia.

But it’s just not us, users of systems….have reported that having information has made them feel more in control. It’s given them the confidence to do things they haven’t done. It’s reduced their anxiety and worry because they can see how they are doing and they’ve made better choices because they can understand the impact of things upon their health. Just by having information they’ve made better choices. I think that’s pretty amazing.

There’s much discussion about what the future of healthcare is going to be. The only certain thing is it’s going to be very different from how it is now – it just has to be. My vision is that we move from being a breakdown service to a wellbeing service.

Let’s use technology to make better choices and to stay healthy and in the words of Albert Einstein, a clever person solves a problem but a wise person avoids a problem.”

Melanie Newdick, who cares for her Mum

Cold can kill

We don’t want to be scaremongering we just want people to take simple steps to stay well this winter.

This is a useful little video that show the affect that the cold can have on older and vulnerable people.

Make sure you know when your relative’s home drops below 18 degrees – Canary can send you a text. It could make all the difference.

Canary saved my 82 year old Father’s life


The following words are from a Canary customer:


A few weeks ago Canary saved my 82 year old father’s life. How?

I live 150 miles from my father and am his only relative in the UK.

Each morning when I wake up and turn on my iPhone I get 3 Canary emails. One tells me that my father has got up once in the night (movement detected in bedroom at xxam), one tells me that he has got up next morning (movement detected in bedroom at xxam) and one telling me that the temperature has risen above 25 degrees (this is my father cooking his breakfast in the kitchen). These emails provide remote reassurance that my father is sticking to his normal routine.

One morning a few weeks ago I woke up as normal and turned on my iPhone – no Canary emails. I immediately logged into Canary and from the activity charts could see that the reason there had been no emails that morning was that my father had never left the lounge from the night before.

I immediately called a neighbour who was able to get into the house and found my father unconscious in the lounge. Paramedics were called and he was admitted to hospital with an infection. He came out several days later and has recovered.

Without Canary I would never have known so quickly that my father had a serious problem which had prevented him from going to bed.

Keep developing Canary – it truly is a life saver.


Our top three ways to help prevent falls

Putting slippers on

The prevalence and risk of falls in older people has been highlighted in the news lately, with the costs resulting from these falls making the headlines. There are some simple ways to reduce the likelihood of falls and to prevent further falls taking place.

When someone has a fall, they are usually asked a set of specific questions to identify the possible causes of that fall and markers to indicate the risk of future falls. They will also be observed walking, or standing up from a chair to assess their strength, balance, coordination and control. Following one or more falls, some patients can be referred to a Falls Clinic where they will receive a comprehensive set of tests and be seen by a range of health professionals including a doctor, nurse, occupational therapist and physiotherapist. General health checks will be carried out and follow up appointments arranged to monitor the patient’s progress.

As a general guide, there are certain common causes which could increase the risk of falls and preventative action can be taken to avoid possible premature incidents of falling.

Our top three simple ways to reduce the chance of falls

1. Nutrition, hydration and staying active – Diet plays a big part in our overall health and it is important that older people are eating and drinking enough of the right kinds of food throughout the day. Poor diet can lead to lower energy levels and poorer condition of bones. Ask your GP surgery for help with balancing your diet and making sure you get enough important nutrients to support and strengthen your body. Increasing your intake of Calcium – tinned fish (with bones), nuts and broccoli; Vitamin D – oily fish, egg yolk, liver & sunlight; and Iron – red meat, seafood, wholegrain cereals, green leafy vegetables, eggs, seeds & nuts – can all help in preventing fracture or breakage from falls.Dehydration can lead to loss of energy and dizziness, particularly in hot weather. Make sure you have easy access to a regular supply of fluid, preferably water. If you are unsteady on your feet, keep a jug of fresh water by your seat and drink from it regularly throughout the day. Keeping active, even in tasks around the home, can help keep our muscles and joints working and strong. Inactivity can lead to a decrease in muscle tone and an increase in stiffness of joints, leading to reduced flexibility and mobility.

2. Environmental – Slippery floors and unsuitable footwear are some of the major factors contributing to over a third of all falls annually (RoSPA, 2014). Loose wires, worn rugs, uneven flooring and items left lying around can all pose risks for possible falls. It’s important to eliminate as much clutter as possible from your home and to reduce hazards which could cause you to trip. We’ve found this website which can help identify and reduce hazards in your home which could cause you to fall: http://www.health.wa.gov.au/stayonyourfeet/steps/hazards.cfm

3. Visit your GP – to review your medication and ask about being referred to a local exercise scheme to improve coordination, balance and flexibility     

The cause of a fall is often multifactorial, so you might want to consider these other factors;

  • Fall history – Those who have already fallen are up to three times more likely to fall again within a year (Kapas, 2014). Make sure you visit your GP surgery to alert them about your fall and ask them for further advice on reducing the risks of future falls.  
  • Gait – How we walk and control our walk and our posture/transfers can play a big part in the likelihood of increased falls. Our reflexes, muscle strength, coordination and flexibility usually decline with age. These can further be affected by a specific illness or disease affecting our skeletal system for example, or as a result of prolonged inactivity (Kapas, 2014). If you notice a change or decline in your walk it would be advisable to visit your GP following which the adoption of a new exercise regime designed to strengthen muscles and increase flexibility may be recommended. Contact Age UK to get a list of the nearest centres to you which provide these exercise classes. They have a lot of information on their website about falls prevention and exercises to help reduce the risks of falling.
  • Sensory – Sight, hearing and touch can all impact on how well we mobilise. Conditions such as glaucoma, cataract and macular degeneration can cause problems with the quality of our sight and therefore contribute to risks associated with falls. Conditions affecting our ears or balance and conditions such as diabetes which may reduce our sensory receptors, can all increase these risks. Make a note of anything you note which is affecting your mobility or coordination. Mention this to your GP or other health professional that you see.
  • Medication and medical history – Older people will often have a range of different medication treating different conditions which can often increase the risk of falls, which is why it is so important to visit GPs in order to review the risk factors associated with this. The medications most commonly associated with falls in older people come under the following categories;
  • Antihypertensives – ACE inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers, calcium channel blockers, hydralazine, methyldopa
  • Beta-blockers – propranolol, timolol
  • Antidepressants – sertraline, trazodone, dosulepin, amitriptyline
  • Diuretics – such as bendroflumethiazide, furosemide, co-amilofruse 
  • Benzodiazepines – (treating anxiety) diazepam, temazepam, chlordiazepoxide
  • Antipsychotics – chlorpromazine, flupentixol, haloperidol, olanzapine, quetiapine, risperidone
  • Other sedatives/hypnotics – sleeping aids such as zopiclone, nitrazepam, sedating antihistamines (e.g. diphenhydramine, promethazine)
  • Opioids – (pain relief) morphine, buprenorphine, diamorphone, fentanyl, methadone, oxycodone, tramadol, codeine
  • NSAIDs – anti inflammatory – diclofenac, ibruprofen 
  • There are also higher risks of falls associated with some medication treating cardiovascular conditions and those taking antiepileptic medications (Kalpas, 2014) and those experiencing urinary incontinence and urgency (FRAZE, 2011).                                                                                                                                                        Again, make a note of any unusual symptoms that you notice and mention this to your GP so that she can make suitable changes to your prescription or complete further tests. Always check the side effects of the medication that you’re taking and don’t be afraid to ask your GP questions about medications that are prescribed. If it’s difficult to get to see your GP, you can pop into a local pharmacy and ask the pharmacist there as they can give you a lot of helpful information about different medications.
  • Mobility – Is a walking aid being used and is it being used appropriately i.e. at all times when required? Is it the suitable type, size and condition for the person using it? Is a walking aid required? If you feel you may benefit from a walking aid or a new walking aid, you can visit your nearest independent living shop to receive advice on what would be most appropriate for you. 
  • Condition of feet – As well as being aware of the condition of the footwear being worn, close attention should be paid to the condition of the actual feet and regular chiropody appointments should be arranged to maintain foot health. Free foot health is offered on the NHS, so ask your GP about a referral. Also, it is really important to take care of your feet so check out this website for tips on how to do so: http://www.nobilis.co.uk/general-health/71-happy-feet-the-importance-of-foot-care-in-the-elderly 
  • Cognitive and mental health – Delirium, acute confusional state or paranoia can all contribute to an increased risk of falls but can be monitored through GPs. Conditions which can confuse the way we think or view things can also increase our risk of falling, as they cloud judgement and can muddle our minds.  
  • Alcohol/drug usage – As with all drugs entering the body, their impact can affect the whole body, leading to side effects which will increase the risk of falls.  
  • Any mind altering substance has the potential to affect our bodily functions and perceptions, so increased use of recreational drugs and alcohol can increase our risk of falls.



Making older people feel useless


Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.

Soren Kierkegaard

“There’s not much more I can contribute to life” she said, stooping over her walking stick, looking at the ground. “I can’t see, I can’t hear and I can’t even walk properly. What use am I now?” She spoke in a clear, steady voice to her carer, looking to him for some kind of response. “You can teach us what it is to age” he replied “because we all will do. You can teach us the importance of patience because we’re all less so these days. You can teach us what it is to have faith in people; tell us what it felt like to trust people coming to your front door, not feeling the need to lock it behind you. You can teach us what it means to respect, because there’s not much of it around at the moment. You can tell us your stories, share with us your wisdom and teach us to live. Tell us all the things that your eyes have seen. If people can’t see your use, then they’re not looking hard enough.”

How sad that we can let our older population believe that they are useless. How sad that we allow them to be excluded from our society. How strange that we ask for a long and healthy life and then fear old age. Their lives, their stories, their experiences can only enrich our own. Maybe if we viewed getting older in a different way, with help from the media and advertising, older people wouldn’t feel as old, wouldn’t feel as useless.

Carers: where would we be without them?

Canary_0657.colourWe all have a partner, relative or friend who we would give everything for should they fall ill or just need us around that little bit more. And it is probably in our human nature to care for another, in every way that we can, to relieve their sadness or pain. But this care giving can, over time, take its toll on that care giver and lead to them sacrificing their own physical and emotional health as well as struggling financially to deliver the care that they want to give and that they feel their loved one deserves.

Rarely have unpaid carers received the praise and recognition they are due. Carers UK suggest that billions of pounds are saved by the government each year due to the ongoing input of carers in our communities. These carers, who are supporting an older, disabled or seriously ill relative or friend make every effort to keep them in their own home, comfortable, safe and loved. The costs to them can be great; in terms of physical pain and emotional and financial strain. Their efforts and contribution to society are not recognised widely enough and are often not recompensed in any way.

The Care Act 2015 could bring a change to this, with every carer due to be offered a Carer’s Assessment, irrespective of the time or level of support they give, focussing instead on the impact that caring has on that person’s wellbeing and what they are prevented from otherwise doing. More companies are looking into ways that they can accommodate the additional caring responsibilities of their employees, recognising that we all have more than one role in our lives.

Our social system simply could not cope without these carers and no one could replace the amount and quality of care that they give. In addition to increased financial support being invested into supporting them, much more should be done to allow them a life outside of their caring roles. In the same way that technology can help people with illnesses and disabilities, technology can also help carers; to relieve some of their strain and to allow them added freedom to access friends, activities and jobs that they would like but have struggled to do so far. No piece of technology can replace human contact and skill, but it can certainly work alongside, add to and complement that which is already there.

We would very much support increased recognition of carers, ensuring appropriate levels of support are given to every aspect of their life and hope that the Care Act 2015 will be the first stepping stone towards achieving this.