As part of a nationwide effort to help seniors age well in place and in the community, our partners in the Community Care sector are constantly conceiving ways to enhance their clients' safety and well-being at home.
One such effort is the Singapore Red Cross’ Home Monitoring and Eldercare (HoME+) programme, which leverages motion-sensing technology to safeguard the well-being of seniors, post-surgery patients, and wheelchair-bound clients who live alone.
It was first launched in 2017 and installed in the homes of 50 seniors who lived in Jurong Central. Over the years, the service has been extended to clients with mobility issues, post-surgery patients in recovery, the blind and others who require a home safety solution. Currently, the programme has 162 active clients.
A spokesperson from Singapore Red Cross (SRC) says, “HoME+ provides families with the peace of mind, cognisant that their elderly loved ones living alone are safe and can receive assistance when needed. Elderly clients can also continue to enjoy some level of independence without invasive monitoring in their private living areas.”
How it works and manpower needed
The HoME+ programme provides non-invasive and round-the-clock protection, as clients can activate a panic button to call for help in times of distress. The distress call sends a notification to SRC, which then mobilises a community responder, trained in first aid and eldercare, to attend to the client within the hour. In emergency situations, SRC will also activate the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF).
“The community responder’s role is to render first aid in non-emergency situations, report on-the-ground situations to the call centre and occasionally, even provide a listening ear to the elderly. They are activated when the nature of the emergency cannot be ascertained and will be the first to be onsite and to report on the situation. They can also be activated if the elderly requiresfirst aid assistance for injuries like minor burns, cuts and sprains.”
How the programme benefits clients
The programme boasts multiple benefits to safeguard the safety of clients. For one, SRC’s Call Centre team conducts quarterly call checks on the client's well-being. Volunteers also do regular check-ins with clients who are part of SRC’s Befriending programmes.
Apart from regular check-ins by SRC, caregivers can get updates on their loved ones through an app, and even retrieve information such as emergency hospital visits. They also get tips on preventive measures, as SRC also captures data from the HoME+ programme to make recommendations.
Additionally, SRC introduces isolated seniors to other programmes such as ElderAid, Befriending and Transport services to take care of their essential needs in all aspects of their lives, ensuring their well-being.
The HoME+ programme is especially useful for clients who live alone or are left alone for periods of time, such as when the caregiver is bathing or running errands. The system alerts SRC, community responders and caregivers or family members, should the client sustain a fall or injuries. A testament to the programme’s effectiveness is one incident involving a client, Mdm Low. She had missed a medical appointment and was uncontactable, so SRC sent their community responders to check on her and discovered she had a fall.
“We dispatched our employees but they were unable to enter her place as the door was locked. The SCDF was alerted. Upon reaching her home, the SCDF made a forced entry into Mdm Low’s home and found her lying on the floor. Mdm Low had sustained a fall and was immobile. She was immediately conveyed to the National University Hospital.
In Mdm Low’s case, it would have been disastrous if HoME+ was not installed in her home. Without HoME+, she might not have received timely assistance. She might have to endure the pain for a protracted period of time, which could endanger her health.
Another client, Mrs England-Lim K F also reaped the benefits of HOME+. She appreciated that, unlike the conventional CCTV monitoring systems, HoME+ uses motion sensors, which provide her with privacy.
She also liked that the installation was fuss-free, and did not require drilling nor presented any disruption. She shared that once when she was binge-watching television programmes after midnight, Singapore Red Cross’ volunteers called to check if she was in trouble. When routine checks were conducted at her place, it triggered the HoME+ alarm and notified her nephew who then called her.
Challenges faced by SRC
SRC has made the HoME+ programme relatively affordable, offering it at $48 per month. They also provide subsidies for low-income families (subject to means testing). However, to offer competitive rates, SRC has to rely heavily on funding. The funding also ensures their community responders undergo training, and facilitates the organisation's purchase of first aid items.
Through the introduction of HoME+ programme, SRC realised that they can help seniors living alone in the community. The spokesperson says, “The seniors look forward to HoME+ check-ins as they have forged a close rapport with our community responders and our employees.
“The HoME+ system has also provided many families with peace of mind, and a second safety net for caregivers. Many of our elderly clients also appreciate that HoME+ is non-invasive, so they can go about their daily lives in their personal space without compromising their privacy.”
Visit www.redcross.sg to learn more about HoME+.