One of the factors that really expose nursing home residents to the risk of neglect is under-staffing. New technology that makes use of automated systems to give nursing home staff members robotic assistance to share their duties, could be a big step forward in helping keep residents safe and cared for.
Two pilot programs currently on in Finland and the Netherlands are making use of robotic systems to share the caseload of nurses, and reduce their burden. The automated system is called the Social and Autonomous Robotic Health Assistant or SARA, and is designed to interact with patients and give them the kind of exercises that are needed for their condition to improve. The technology is specifically being tested on patients with stage one dementia, who may need additional support from nurses in the form of exercises to bring about an improvement in their condition. Unfortunately, many nursing homes catering to older patients suffering from dementia suffer staff shortages, which leads to poor care of the patient and lack of time to deliver the kind of therapies that residents may require.
This is where the SARA system comes in. The robotic assistant interacts with patients, giving them the exercises needed to improve symptoms of dementia. Nurses can access the system through a tablet which will allow them to implement a specific health and therapy plan for each patient. The robotic assistant can also help rescue the risk of errors, by providing automated support to nurses for each patient in his or her care.
The prototype is currently in use in the nursing home facilities that have signed up for the pilot program. The researchers have seen enough success with the prototypes to feel confident enough about introducing a robotic health assistant commercially in Europe later this year.
Aged patients, especially those suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease require specialized care, and understaffed nursing homes find that they are simply unable to provide the care that patients need. Often, the result is neglect, which can cause injury or harm to the patient.
As more and more baby boomers enter our nation’s over- crowded and understaffed nursing homes, steps will have to be taken to ensure that these facilities are able to provide the care required. These steps need to go beyond star ratings which can help families make an informed decision about where to place their loved ones, but do not give nursing homes the tools required to care for an increasing number of patients.