Elderly people especially in remote areas find themselves home alone without relatives or friends close by. Social workers visit those in need only during certain times. But what if a senior needs urgent social or household assistance and is too distressed or unable to place a call?

“The problem is particularly acute for those who live alone. It can happen so, that this person can either fall or get lost in their own home and this happens regularly. Then the person remains helpless for quite long, with nobody around”, says Iryna Gusarova, the Director of the Berdyansk Territorial Center of Social Services Provision.

To address that problem, Iryna Gusarova had the idea to develop the Red Button application. Single elderly and seriously ill people, who receive the service palliative care at home, can now use the app to get quick help. The idea is simple: the patients install the red button application on their smartphone. Once help is needed, they can simply open the application and click the red button. Social workers are informed and immediately sent to the registered apartment. This helps those distressed who struggle to find the right telephone number and call the social workers. Mrs. Gusarova explains that such an app gives patients the certainty that help will come quickly.

“I feel that I am not alone with my illness. People take care of me, and in case things get worse, they will help me”, said Valentina Nekliudova [pictured above], who is one of the patients using the application.

Given the health issues, Mrs. Gusarova says that it is difficult to teach palliative care patients how to properly use smartphones. Nevertheless, patients get clear instructions on how to use the device for emergency purposes. “We installed the app and we showed how to press, what to do. All the steps were explained by the social worker.”

Because not all clients have or use smartphones, the Berdyansk Social Service and City Council are looking for donations of used phones by the community. The application itself is open-source and Mrs. Gurasova encourages other colleagues in the region to use the existing code and adapt it to their community’s needs.

The development of the app was possible with a financial contribution by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). It was developed in August 2021 and first used in October 2021.  The application is part of bigger efforts to assist the city of Berdyansk with improving local social and medical services and their work with early support for children and young people and treatment of patients. The project is financed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).