Diagnostic technology adds value to managing challenging behaviour

What is important in choosing technology when caring for people with challenging behaviour? Two Dutch organisations, the Centre for Consultation and Expertise (CCE) and the Innovatie-impuls Gehandicaptenzorg (Innovation Impulse Disability Care), carried out a study to find out. Their research led to many new insights: 

“In terms of technology there are many possibilities,” says coordinator at the CCE Leo van Mil. “This raised questions for us as CCE. Shouldn’t we be doing more with it? But how? If you use it, you want to apply it properly. It really has to lead to a better quality of life for the client. A pitfall with challenging behaviour is that technology can be used as a way to control. That’s why it’s important that it’s applied carefully.”

Knowing the goal is important

Van Mil: “At CCE we look, together with care professionals and relatives, at methods to improve the quality of life. If possible, we also involve the client. These methods are often very specifically aimed at a particular goal. For example, reducing the stress level of a client. Or getting a better view on what triggers someone. This goal is also very important when it comes to the deployment of technology.”

A broad multidisciplinary view is indispensable

A further requirement is that you work meticulously and methodically. Van Mil: “With technology, you can get a signal, for example, if someone’s heart rate increases. But you still have to interpret this information. Is someone’s heart rate rising because he is stressed? Or is he just happy? For a good interpretation, it is important that you look broadly and from multiple disciplines. This must be embedded in all work processes. You start working from a common “way of looking”. And also from a common idea about what may be going on. This always includes asking the right questions. Are several people involved in a problem? If so, to what extent do they have a shared sense of purpose? For example, are there any steps that still need to be taken in the interpretation of the problem? Has enough information been gathered?”

Sometimes health problems remain undiscovered for years

Collecting sufficient information is very important. Especially because people with challenging behaviour often have difficulty communicating.

Van Mil: “Sometimes people can have health problems for years without anyone noticing it. Then there really is unnecessary suffering. You could prevent that with good diagnostics. Technology can support this. It can also help identify other triggers. During consultations, professionals often indicate that no concrete triggers for behavioural problems have been found. However, we assume that there are always triggers. Technology can help find these triggers.”

The more extensive the technology, the more complicated the infrastructure

Van Mil: “A good infrastructure for technology is also necessary. Implementation of technology is not only a matter for the healthcare professionals directly involved. Management must consider whether to invest in technology. The more complex and far-reaching the technology, the more complicated the infrastructure. With a home automation system, you have to take this into account, for example, when building it.” Yet this does not have to be so in all cases, Van Mil says that sometimes it’s the simple interventions that make a client’s life easier.

Awareness of technology has become more pronounced

Van Mil adds that at CCE, they know what needs to happen when a change is implemented in order to be able to meet the client’s support needs.

Van Mil: “Sometimes people can have health problems for years without anyone noticing it. This is no different when it comes to the use of technology. Yet this awareness has become much more acute through the coming together in this rich collaboration between the IIG and CCE. For example, we wanted to become even more familiar with technology. In doing so, it’s mainly a matter of engaging well with technology. The technology itself is not going to be the solution. It’s about the way we deal with each other in applying technology in the lives of clients.”

Nice boost for next steps

Van Mil: “Through sessions with Vilans consultants and consultants from Academy Het Dorp (Village Academy), our awareness of the opportunities that technology offers has increased. They contributed very directly to our work and added value from their own perspective. Our view has broadened. Technology will continue to be part and parcel of our toolkit. The collaboration has given a nice boost to follow-up steps within the CCE. We are now thinking about this. How can we draw more attention to the opportunities that technology can offer in the lives of clients?

Read about the Centre for Consultation and Expertise (CCE)

With the Innovatie-impuls Gehandicaptenzorg (Innovation Impulse Disability Care) from the programme Volwaardig leven (Living a Full Life), the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS) wants to make it easier for clients and care providers to apply technology. Vilans and Academy Het Dorp (Village Academy) coordinate and implement the program. In doing so, consultants, experts and field specialists provide support.