Latest in Caregiving Robotics – Responding to Emotions and Needs

Robots are coming to family caregiving!

We believe that there will be a future in which robots will actually perform some tasks that family caregivers currently perform.

No one anticipates – or wants to see – robots making personal caregiving obsolete; instead they will enhance the role of caregivers by allowing them to better prioritize their time.

Using a robot to perform tasks such as supervising a senior loved one as they sleep at night to ensure they stay safe or help to transfer a senior from bed to chair without endangering the senior or caregivers will hopefully improve the life of family caregivers and make their daily tasks a little easier to handle.

Recent Innovations in Robotics

A team of researchers at the UC San Diego Contextual Robotics Institute is working to build a better caregiving robot.

They are developing a robot that can listen, speak and even react to the needs of their human owners. They will try to improve aging in place for the nation’s seniors.

The field of robotics is expanding and we will see its effects in a variety of applications, such as driverless cars.

As the nuts and bolts of robotics are improved, the advancement continues in functionality and capabilities.

The UC San Diego researchers have collaborated with a variety of experts, not just in engineering but also social science and computing, to create robots that recognize their environments and situation. Once they process the surrounding input, they are able to configure the data for a more human-like response.

Drones for Caregiving

Another pioneering application for the use of robotics in caregiving is the use of drones.

Researchers at the University of Illinois received a grant from the National Science Foundation to design small autonomous drones to be used in homes for household chores such as getting medication from another room, dusting chandeliers and even weeding. They envision a time when drones will become today’s cellphones, in other words, everyday items.

Healthcare is also using more and more robotics for diagnostics and we will see even more Internet-based solutions to provide care to homebound seniors.

According to a recent article in Science, “examples of robotic and artificial-intelligence-derived technologies that will be commercially available in the next decade include intelligent walkers, smart pendants that track falls and “wandering,” room and home sensors that monitor health status, balancing aids, virtual and robotic electronic companions, and even drones.”

Robots in Use Today

Robotics in caregiving is not something new.

We are using a growing variety of robots to perform tasks for our aging population.

Here are some ways they are currently being used:

  1. Hospitals – robots travel to patient rooms in the hospital and perform stroke diagnostics. They can talk to the patient, review the medical record and interact with a physician who is in another location.
  2. Rehabilitation therapy – robotic exoskeletons are helping people stand on their own and walk. There are also robotic prosthetics that can help people with disabilities grasp and maneuver objects in their environment.
  3. Companions and socialization – robots are used to keep seniors company. They can converse with seniors, give them medication reminders and help them maintain an improved quality of life assisting with their needs. Socialization with a robotic animal can help seniors and caregivers.
  4. Home monitoring – computer devices that monitor patterns of activity, including eating and physical activity as well as safety with that data sent to caregivers remotely.
  5. Cleaning – vacuum cleaners that clean while we do other things, window cleaners that wash the windows, robots that mop the floor, robotic lawn mowers that keep the yard trimmed, and even pool cleaning robots.
  6. Home security – while this is in its infant stage, home security especially with the use of drones can help keep the property secured.
  7. In home visits – there is a telepresence robot that can do home visits with patients who are homebound when the caregiver is in another remote location. The robot can move throughout the senior’s home and get a bird’s eye view of the environment and the patient. It can also give them medication reminders and other prompts.
  8. Mobile service robotCareBot telepresence has been tested in an actual home environment assisting older adults. It interacts with the older adults, answers questions, assists with daily tasks and operates remotely to give the caregiver both audio and video feed. It can deliver emergency notifications to remote caregivers such as a fall or fire calling 911 for you.

Life Changing Robots For Home Use

Why is it so important to find solutions that allow our senior loved ones to remain home safely and securely as long as possible while giving our family caregivers much needed help?

The facts are pretty astounding!

Family caregivers are responsible for more and more tasks, including caring for their immediate families and keeping a job. They also need to care for themselves, which often is more things than they can juggle and still maintain a healthy balance.

Aging in place seniors can benefit from the use of robots to do some of these important tasks in the home while their family caregivers do other things.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) believes robots can solve caregiving issues in the future. They have recently funded through the National Robotics Initiative (NRI) research a robot that will improve health and quality of life for individuals with disabilities.

The NIH states that “robots have a tremendous potential to contribute to the health and well-being of our society, whether they are helping an elderly person engage in physical activity or promoting the curiosity of a child.” Their robot is a robotic walker that could help the elderly move more easily and retain independence — a four-legged robot that enhances mobility.

Number of Seniors Needing Assistance Growing with Population

The numbers of seniors needing more assistance to stay in the home of their dreams is growing. Many of these seniors are trying very hard to remain independent but a large number of them need an ever increasing amount of assistance to remain independent and more importantly safe at home.

A recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that one in 20 people over the age of 65 is homebound in the U.S., meaning they can’t travel out of the home without help and are dependent on others to help them with daily tasks.

Homebound seniors rarely or never leave the house. In 2011 there was an estimated 5.6% (about 2 million) seniors on Medicare who were completely or mostly homebound.

Helping family caregivers help these seniors is a role we believe robotic caregivers will fill nicely, especially as improvements are developed. Affordability for caregivers will, of course, be a key to adoption, as will seeing the practical applications that can benefit both seniors and family caregivers in the near future.

We will continue to keep our eye on the future of robotics and how they might play a part in enhancing the role of family caregivers especially for seniors who are aging in place and we will bring you the latest innovations!