For the past 20 years, Lynne Whistance has worked in the Care sector. As Pobl’s Inclusion and Assistive Technology Officer, she advocates for the individuals we support, seeking creative, innovative solutions to any issues they face – with a view to offering better independence and quality of life.
She is driven, determined, tenacious – and she’s genuinely passionate about what she does. She is currently juggling a number of different and hugely important projects, including TAPPI at Llys Y Werin, (Technology for our Ageing Population: Panel for Innovation) which aims to improve the way technology is used in housing and care for older people. Despite a heavy workload though, she took time out to sit down and chat about her role and what it means to her.
First things first, we wanted to find out about Lynne’s experience and why she’s so passionate about technology enabled Care.
Lynne said, “I started with Pobl in April 2003 as an assistant support worker. This gave me a good insight into the various supported living and ILS individuals we supported.
“I then moved into a service, worked my way up to support worker, lead support worker, then manager.”
And it was her time as a team manager that first started to spark her creativity in Care. She explained, “We needed to remove the string from a blind for an individual as they would either use it to rip the blind down or use it as a ligature. But at the same time, we didn’t want to remove the skill or task of having been able to close blinds when they wanted to… The solution was remote controlled blinds.”
This single, seemingly small change started something, as Lynne said, “I started to think about what other devices/ gadgets or things could be out there to enable choice, control, and independence? As time went on, I introduced more devices and gadgets that the individuals were able to use, and this created a more equal status for all.”
And that’s what Lynne’s current role is all about – identifying and utilising technology to enhance lives.
Lynne said, “Assistive technology, people assume, is all technical and based on IT. It isn’t and it isn’t scary either. What the term means in reality is devices, gadgets, and systems that can be used to enable an individual.”
So, what would be an example of a gadget that can be utilised in a Care service? Lynne said, “A good example of a basic gadget is the HUG; a soft sloth-like doll that can replicate a heartbeat, so when cuddled it can offer the feeling of hugging someone real.”
And what about more complex technology? We asked Lynne if she has any experience in that field. She said, “There are seemingly complex aspects of assistive technology, such as fall sensors and motion detectors, but in reality, they are so user friendly even I can set one up! And then there are things like communication aids. Many people will have seen Rob Burrow use an ACC device to communicate – and that’s the type of technology we are talking about. No robots coming in to replace front line colleagues!”
Whilst Lynne made this comment in jest, there is an element of truth in it too – as technology can be feared by colleagues as well as the individuals they support. Lynne explained, “Some of the challenges I face in my role relate to pre-existing fears or cultures in the workplace. The speed with which we can move with technology can create an immediate barrier. Frontline colleagues can be unsure or frightened of the change.”
And that’s not the only challenge, as Lynne mentioned funding is also a factor. She said, “As great as the assistive technology is, and is important for the future, we need to have a funding system which organisations like Pobl can draw upon.”
That’s another reason why the TAPPI project is so important to Llys Y Werin, Pobl’s testbed service – and also the Group as a whole.
The fact that it allows Lynne to trial different technologies before implementing them with the funding is a real bonus.
Alongside this, Lynne tries to be tactical in the relationships she builds. She said, “I have been seeking out and networking with the 3 partnership boards we currently work in, explaining my role and ambition around assistive tech and that we would be interested in partnership working and research. Financially I look for ‘off the shelf’ solutions where possible too, so that if I feel a device or gadget would enable an individual, then they can purchase their own without the added extra of it being sold as a ‘care’ or ‘health’ item that can inflate the costs.”
When you hear Lynne speaking about her challenges and how she overcomes them, you get a real sense of how passionate she is about the use of technology in care – and with good reason; she has witnessed some real successes through her work. She recalled, “One example of my role in action is when a colleague reached out after an individual expressed a wish to self-medicate.
“Meeting with the individual and colleague, we set out to learn what didn’t work in the past and then created a plan with milestones that everyone felt were achievable. A medication device was purchased and after a few weeks of everyone getting used to it, the individual began the journey. There were a few blips on the way, but the individual has now successfully been self-administrating for over 4 months, to the point that they have moved away from the device and are using everyday off the shelf medication organisers.”
This drive to support individuals to become as independent as possible is a theme which runs through everything Lynne does currently.
But what about the future? We asked Lynne how she thinks Care will look in 10 years time.
She replied, “I think and hope care will look very different…
I think we will have fully implemented electronic care planning, having a better system to share information between ourselves and external partners. That those frontline colleagues are free from the repetitive paperwork, but the important and required recordings are conducted in a co-produced manner with individuals having greater control.
“I hope we will have more meaningful activities undertaken by colleagues as technological solutions will be used as the first choice in some mundane tasks. In this, I mean that instead of medication being automatically seen as the colleague’s role, devices would be used first for the individual to have choice and control, enabling the colleague to offer more meaningful time and support on what the individual wanted.
“I would hope that services were commissioned more around the individual, their aspirations and wants not just on needs.”
Whilst we can’t see into the future, we know that as long as Lynne is driving technology and inclusion projects at Pobl, we will see progress and achievements being made – how that looks for each individual will be very different – but that’s the beauty of person-centred support.
For Lynne, the TAPPI project reflects this – with each resident at Llys Y Werin displaying different wants, needs and abilities. It’s a challenge to find solutions for everyone to benefit from, but it’s a challenge that Lynne is prepared to take on – and as you’ll read in future case studies, residents are already seeing the benefits.