Frontline Initiative DSPs and Technology
Remote monitoring works, but not for everyone
I work for a program called Semi-Independent Living Services (SILS). In this program some people receive just a few hours a week of support, and other people receive support during most waking hours. Unlike a group home, none of the people receiving our services have in-person support twenty-four hours per day. However, support staff from our program is always available for emergencies. Even at night, awake staff is available to field emergency phone calls.
When we added remote monitoring technology a couple years ago, it improved our ability to support three roommates (Gary, Warren, and Dale) during the hours when no support staff is at their home. However, Joe (name changed) tried using remote monitoring technology in his home, and it did not seem to be as helpful. I’ll describe the specific experiences my coworkers have had with this new technology.
Gary, Warren, and Dale’s story: Safer and healthier because of remote monitoring
Gary, Warren and Dale are roommates who live together and receive support through the SILS program at Opportunity Partners. They use remote monitoring technology in their home. We had seen that these roommates did not always call our awake staff in the evenings when problems developed. Gary, Warren, and Dale agreed to try remote monitoring technology to improve their safety and address medical concerns. Together, we developed a plan, and the technology was installed and activated.
Supports are never one-size-fits-all.
Warren, Gary and Dale have several kinds of technology in their home. Emergency pendants hang on the wall in the living room and in the downstairs bathroom. When pressed, these pendants activate a customized calling tree. The calling tree calls Opportunity Partners’ emergency on-call number first. If there is no answer, the call automatically rolls through a list of other emergency contacts until someone answers. This makes emergency calls as easy as the touch of a button.
Sometimes one of the roommates will not remember to tell direct support staff important health information. To address this, Gary, Warren and Dale had bedroom and bathroom door sensors installed. The sensors are programmed to come on during the hours they are typically asleep. These sensors automatically let DSPs know if there are many trips to the bathroom in the night, which can be a sign of illness. There is also a sensor on the bathroom light. This sensor tells us if the light is on for a long time during the night, another possible sign of illness. The DSPs who support Warren, Gary, and Dale can then ask the questions to learn more about each person’s health right away, before an illness becomes more serious.
Gary, Warren, and Dale all agree that these technologies make them feel safer than before they had it. Gary said, “Yes. It’s much better around here. If someone really got hurt, I would feel safe.” Warren added, “I feel that it is good, safe and reliable. Everybody could use it.” They like the sensors on their front and back doors best. They are glad that staff would know right away if an intruder entered. DSPs who support Gary, Dale, and Warren generally agree that the system is working for these men.
Joe’s story: Remote monitoring is not for everyone
DSPs in the Opportunity Partners SILS program have also tried to use remote monitoring to support Joe, another person who also lives in his own apartment. They think the technology is a headache. Stacy, who coordinates this man’s supports, says the technology doesn’t work. Joe has gait problems and is at risk of falls. Recently, bed sensors were put in to notify staff when he gets out of bed. However, the sensors only worked some of the time. Thus, she is not confident that he would get help if he fell. She feels it has done little to improve his safety and well-being.
Each person has different needs and abilities, and supports are never one-size-fits-all. Technology is not one-size-fits-all, either. We are glad that remote monitoring technology is helpful for some people we support, but it is only one of the many ways we can support people’s independence, safety, and health.