About the SeniorAdvisor.com 2014 In-Home Innovation Scholarship: We started the scholarship program to bring awareness of the unique benefits and challenges of in-home caregiving for seniors to younger generations. The questions posed by the scholarship encouraged our nation’s future caregivers to present solutions for improving home care in the United States. College-aged students were required to answer one of the three essay topics below and provide a short bio as part of their scholarship application. Read the winning essays here.
How can the healthcare industry use technology to improve in-home care for American seniors?
Essay response by Sammy Montana
The healthcare industry should take advantage of the constant advancement in technology to improve in-home care for seniors. The creation of highly sophisticated robotics is an excellent way the healthcare industry could use technology to improve in-home care for American seniors. Robotics is used in some form or another in the current health care field. Therefore, it would not be too far off to continue down the path of developing robotics in such a way that an in-home care robot would serve the functions of a caregiver.
Over the past five years I have lost my grandmother, mother-in-law, and my grandmother-in-law. All of them had some form of in-home care or another. However, what struck me is that they had very similar needs regardless of the illnesses they were battling. A robot can be programmed to keep track of medication delivery, assist in walking seniors to the bathroom, assist seniors in getting out of bed(especially if they are physically heavy), assist seniors in making meals, and assist seniors through CPR or activating 911 emergency calls. This could be a robot that is available for sale or rental. Once a month a technician would check and fine tune the robot if needed. Furthermore a robot can have an internal mechanism that sends a distress signal to the 24hr technical assistance center if it were to malfunction. At the same time, an in-home caregiver would replace the robot until it is back from the “shop.” However, programming a robot to perform CPR may be tricky at first but not impossible. The key is for the robot to be programmed to apply extremely gentle pressure on the unconscious senior patient and have an internal X-ray that locates the sternum so that it could start compressions safely. The air from inside the robot would be programmed to be at a low pressure. These ideas are by no means foolproof but I strongly believe them to be a starting point for innovators in the computer technology field to spur new ideas that will improve in-home care for American seniors using robotics. In the beginning like any new piece of technology costs would be high until the mass market picks up. VCRs were considered costly and a luxury at one point but then eventually became cheap followed by complete absolution. Other downsides to using a live in-home caregiver are possible elder abuse, possible theft (as a criminal background check reveals only so much) and family burnout. If a robot replaced the in-home caregiver it is possible that these downsides would become worries of the distant past.
In the end, it is irrelevant where the ideas to improve in-home care for seniors originate. What matters is that the concept of using robotics in the manner described herein spurs further ideas and tests to determine the method of using this technology to improve the often neglected people in our society: Senior citizens.
Sammy is pursuing a Masters Degree in English.