Are Robots Replacing Human Carers?

Although it may seem as though care robots are here to replace human carers, we may have let the level of technology in science fiction and films cloud our thinking.

In science fiction we imagine a world with robotic servants that take on the tasks that we either cannot or will not do - with robots taking on the role of butlers, chauffeurs, cooks, cleaners and carers that lift, wash, dress, feed, medicate, fetch things and do all of the things that humans do - just without the human part.

However, in 2020 this is not yet a reality for two reasons. Firstly, we as an industry don’t yet have the technical capability to keep up with the robots we see imagined in films, television and books. We are seeing robots created to serve small parts of each of the above purposes (self driving cars, robot hoovers, military defense robots, drones, etc) but we’ve not yet met Rosie from the Jetsons or Baymax from Big Hero 6 - because we’re just not technologically there yet.

However, the second reason that we have yet to develop robots that meet the needs of what we see in movies is that we as a society don’t actually want that. We may want it one day, but right now in 2020 we just aren’t there yet.

Healthcare robots, such as Mylo, are not only unable to replace human contact, they are designed to aid human and other contact.

In Nursing and Care Homes as a workplace the inclusion of care robots is a solution to a growing problem of the shortage in care staff entering into an industry in which staff are already overwhelmed. According to the Independent Ireland’s ageing population and the rising cost of elderly care is the single greatest economic threat to the country (Independent, 2019).

And that’s just the cost to the country. The Irish National Dementia Strategy estimates that the bulk of care is being provided free of charge by family caregivers at an estimated 807,000,000 per annum - and we’re starting to crack.

The 2016 Irish Census showed that nearly 200,000 families in Ireland are providing an average of 38.7 hours of direct care to an elderly family member each week, with over half of carers being over the age of 40. The same age demographic that is dealing with careers, home ownership and mortgages, children and child care, personal health concerns, marital and relationship strain… something has to give.

So no, our society doesn’t want robots to replace human carers - but there is certainly scope for care robots to help ease the strain of caring and being cared for. Rather than replace human contact, we can use this technology to:

  • Check on a family member via hands-free video calls

  • Remotely check on a family member’s home - see if home care arrived, if the cat was fed, if the oven is turned off.

  • Be able to respond immediately (and with video!) to a detected heart problem or fall

  • Take on small tasks to reduce care strain, such as

  • Medication reminders with directions

  • Reminders to drink water and tea throughout the day

  • Reminders and prompts about appointments and schedules

  • Reminders and prompts to eat meals, with videos and suggestions

  • Be available for a loved one to video call using only their voice

  • Prompts for daily living routines such as washing and dressing - which can include videos and step by step reminders

  • Play games to pass the time

  • Listen to audio books

  • Watch videos

  • Feel safe that your family member isn’t completely alone

So no, robots certainly aren’t able to replace human carers or companionship - but they can certainly help when that human touch isn’t always available - so our loved ones don’t have to be left truly alone.

If you or your loved one could use a little helping hand, Mylo could be your sidekick. If you’d like to find out more about how Mylo could help get in touch with us to arrange a demo.

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