“Alexa – what does the future of assistive technology mean for home care?”
With the recent news that the NHS will soon be joining forces with Amazon to enable people to access health information through AI-powered voice assistants (Alexa & Echo), it seems like the ideal time to discuss how technological innovations can, and will, improve how the social care sector operates.
It’s an exciting time for home care after experiencing huge growth in the last ten years and there’s no sign of demand slowing. The majority of people needing care want to live independently in their own homes and we know that high-quality home care can extend a healthy lifespan. As the demand for home care grows, providers are finding the complexity of needs increasing – looking after people at home for longer with more complicated conditions. From experience, we know that everyone’s needs are different and that home care is not just for the elderly. We care for people with a range of needs from helping them to gain independence and get out into the community, through to palliative and live-in care.
There are a number of technological solutions emerging to help clients live in their homes, support care workers and manage home care operations. From a bed that moves into a chair to enable people to get themselves out of bed, to an app to help with medication management reducing ‘popping-in’ visits, there are some exciting gadgets coming onto the market. Harnessing the power of data and technology can help prevent the occurrence of unnecessary trips to the hospital but also help manage individual care plans. For a client that tends to get up once during the night to use the toilet, home sensors that monitor water usage can now alert providers to changes in behaviours such as flushing the toilet more than usual - which could be indicative of an early onset water infection. High-tech solutions incorporating AI home assistants and motion sensors provide reassurance to family members - in an unobtrusive way - that their loved ones are resting calmly throughout the night.
However, innovation in-home care is different from innovation in other sectors. Everything social care providers do impacts the quality of clients’ care and the advancements in technology are no way a substitute for the role of care workers. Whilst these innovations can greatly improve the experience for staff as well as service users - and we expect some of them to become commonplace over the next few years - Nurseplus believe in a people-focused approach. Companionship is one of the most valued aspects of homecare as clients can feel cut off from society due to mobility issues or learning difficulties. Homecare provides regular visits from a friendly face to help combat loneliness and isolation – Alexa might provide conversation but does she offer a warm smile and a cup of tea? We get to know our clients and staff and regular communication along with in-person contact is key to achieving this. Understanding our staffs’ commitments and what they’re looking for in a career with us allows them to do what they do best – deliver compassionate and person-centred care.