Return of the Aged Care Robot
‘We don’t even have Wi-Fi’: a descriptive study exploring current use and availability of communication technologies in residential aged care, by Wendy Moyle et al surveyed nursing homes and found a lag in uptake of modern communication technologies.
This is an issue, because social connections are important and many residents find that family members and friends are unable to visit regularly. Phone and internet access are vitally important to avoid residents becoming socially disconnected and lonely.
While the study found that all Australian nursing home residents have access to a telephone, many residents struggle to use telephones due to aspects of ageing and symptoms of dementia.
Communications technology with real time video can help solve this. Simple applications like Skype and FaceTime have been shown to improve the sense of connection for nursing home residents.
However, the study found that it is difficult to know what the current levels of use of these types of communication technologies are amongst nursing home residents.
One of the homes surveyed, which was located in a major city, had no internet access.
The study concludes that lack of adequate internet connection may be a common issue.
Given this conclusion you would be tempted to applaud the Australian Government putting up $5.3 million for a pilot project to improve care for people living with dementia, using innovative technologies.
However, the technologies in play are laser beams, floor sensors and trip lights to alert staff.
And where technology and aged care are mentioned together, they are never far away: robots! The Government’s media release makes the following claim: “… robots and robotic pets are helping to reduce tension among people with dementia and improving their quality of life”.
But if you look at the findings of the ‘We don’t even have Wi-Fi’ study, you wonder why it isn’t a Government priority to make sure all residents can use existing technology and help people connect through Skype and FaceTime, never mind the robots.