Havering Council scheme helps vulnerable people to keep their independence

Kathleen Barker and graddaughter Joanne

Kathleen Barker and graddaughter Joanne - Credit: Archant

“I like to be out and about, staying in gets me down,” says great-grandmother Kathleen Barker.

But for Kathleen’s family, this has become a concern in the last 18 months, following her diagnosis with dementia.

They want Kathleen, 82, to enjoy as much independence as she can, but they also want to keep her safe, especially as she can sometimes end up wandering, becoming lost and confused, and has been known to wander at night.

Granddaughter Joanne Barker, 38, lives near to Kathleen in Collier Row and regularly checks in on her.

Jo knows her Nan’s condition is worsening and she needs support, but she also knows she is not yet ready for a care home.

This meant the family were faced with a difficult choice, how could they ensure Kathleen gets the right level of support?

Jo has been working with Havering Council, discovering a range of technology that has helped her Nan to remain in her own home, while also giving the family the peace of mind they desperately need.

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Six months ago Kathleen became the first person in Havering to begin using a new piece of technology to the borough, a Skyguard device.

The small device, which can be worn as a necklace, broach, on a belt or waistband, or stored in a purse as Kathleen’s is, can pinpoint her exact location, ideal if she pops to the shops during the day and becomes lost or disorientated.

She can use the buttons on the device to call one of her sons, or a dedicated helpline with trained advisors, for help, but the family find it more helpful as they can check her location themselves and can find her wherever she is, even if she is too disorientated to press the button herself.

Jo said: “Her carer comes in the morning and puts it in her purse; we find that the best place for it as she never leaves homes without it.

“It is a godsend that it shows where she is. She likes to pop into Romford to do her shopping and she has got lost before, someone took her to the police station.

This gives her independence while the family are at work. It gives us peace of mind but allows her to keep up her independence, which is ideal as she’s at the in-between stage where we know she is not ready for a care home, but she also cannot live completely alone.”

Kathleen now likes to pop into Romford once a week, and the Skyguard device allows her to do so while her family have nothing to worry about.

And that’s not the only benefit the On Track scheme has given the family.

Following some worrying incidents where Kathleen had left home and wandered at night, becoming lost and confused and not always taking her device, sensors have been fitted to her front door which if opened at night, alerts her family she has gone out.

Jo added: “There is so much technology out there and it’s so important to find a programme that fits your relative as everyone is different.

“It also helps to have someone who can push for the right support as if I hadn’t I wouldn’t have known all about this.”

Kathleen, who was widowed in 2006, said: “I like to get out myself as I know what I want. But it’s nice to have my family close by.

“I like going into Romford and it’s nice to know I have help if I need it. You didn’t have all of this years ago.”