I knew this day was coming. I joked about it years ago in a BoomSpeak post. Now it’s here. The robots have arrived in nursing homes. In Minnesota, 16 robots will soon be dispatched to 8 nursing homes around the state.
Before the pandemic, there wasn’t exactly a groundswell of interest. That was then. After 200,000 nursing home residents or workers died of the coronavirus, minds were changed. Three hundred nursing homes have closed. It’s harder and harder to hire caregivers to work in nursing homes. More than 400,000 workers at long-term care facilities have left the profession. People don’t want to work there and don’t want their elderly relatives to reside there.
Technology had already begun to fill the gap even before the pandemic arrived. Touchless meal delivery, video doctor consults, and home monitoring devices have grown in popularity. The next step is robots reminding us to take our meds, socialize with us, and pick us up when we fall. And don’t laugh –– smart toilets can monitor our meds and nutrition.
Japan is once again way ahead of us when it comes to the use of robots for assisted living environments. They had to be pioneers because they have the world’s oldest population and a limited labor pool.
While the robots will not replace human caregivers anytime soon, Covid-19 has opened our minds to the potential for robots to supplement the functions of human caregivers, and in some cases, perform these functions in a safer manner that prevents potentially deadly human contact.
I still have this image of a nursing home resident sitting in a robotic bathing conveyance that operates somewhat like an automatic brushless carwash. The suds come down and the gentle spray applies the water, then those floppy sponge things dance around a bit, followed by a gentle spray rinse, and then a warm blow dry. Pretty sweet when you think about it. Hardly any effort and you’re in and you’re out. Maybe not as personal as a human performing the service, but then again, maybe we’re not going to want personal bath services.
All I’m saying is that maybe Robby robot is about as personal as we’d like when it comes to some nursing home tasks.
Jay Harrison is a writer and creative consultant for DesignConcept. You can also visit his author page here. His newest mystery novel, Rio Puerco Demise is available on Amazon. His first mystery novel, Head Above Water, is also available on Amazon.