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How 'Tele-Caregiving' Gives People With Disabilities Independence

Jun 17, 2019

Southwest Ohio leads the state in the number of people with developmental disabilities benefiting from tele-caregiving. That's when technology takes the place of overnight live-in caregivers who are often hard to hire and retain.

The technology isn't new, but the use of it for a person with a disability and overnight care is. For Beth and Susie (WVXU isn't using their last names to maintain privacy) the technology has given them more independence.

For years they've had to have somebody stay with them at night. That's not the case anymore. If you look around in their apartment, you'll see door sensors and cameras.

The Hamilton County residents admit it took awhile to get used to, but anytime they have a concern they can video chat with the overnight person monitoring them remotely. Total Homecare Solutions provides the technology and night-time monitoring. Owner Adam Shoemaker works with agencies in Hamilton, Butler, Warren and Clermont counties to place the appropriate devices in the home.

This caregiver communicates remotely with residents if there is a concern.
Credit Ann Thompson / WVXU

Shoemaker explains it's not Big Brother. The only time the remote monitor sees inside Beth and Susie's apartment is if a sensor goes off or if they contact the company.

Hamilton County Developmental Disabilities Services' Allison Leedy pushed for the technology knowing it would help residents. "It's really individualized to meet the person's needs." She says you can see much of what's available in a Lebanon smart home that's open for tours. It's a joint effort between Hamilton, Butler, Warren and Clermont Counties.

For Beth and Susie and others, agency program manager Eric Sunderman says the biggest challenge is getting guardians and family to buy into it. But he says eventually they come around to the idea that tele-caregiving is really safer than having a person stay overnight.

"It's kind of the way of the future to really help with this problem and then staff can actually focus at (support service company) LADD and other agencies. Staff can use their gifts and talents to bring to their people," Sunderman says.

Medicaid waivers pay for the services. They are administered by Hamilton County DD Services. Funds from the developmental disabilities services levy pays the required 40% local match, which brings in a 60% match from Medicaid.