Nursing homes for all: why aged care needs to reflect multicultural Australia

Do nursing home staff know and respect your cultural background or language? Here’s why that’s important.
from www.shutterstock.com

Helen Rawson, Deakin University

This week, the aged care royal commission looks at diversity in aged care, an issue becoming increasingly relevant to both residents and the staff who care for them.

Diversity includes gender, sexual orientation, religion and social background. The issue is important because if we aim to offer older people and families choice and control in aged care, we must meet the diverse needs of all older people.




Read more:
Our culture affects the way we look after ourselves. It should shape the health care we receive, too


Australia’s rich diversity is reflected in its older population. In 2016, more than one-third (37%) of Australians aged 65 and over were born overseas and one-fifth (20%) were born in a non-English speaking country.

These figures have increased continually since 1981, when one-quarter (25%) of older people were born overseas.

Diversity within diversity: culture and language

Culture is important for every person. It indicates a way of life based on customs, beliefs, language and experiences shared with family and a wider community or group.

According to the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia, many people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds don’t want to move to a nursing home. This is for a number of reasons.

They may not want to be away from family and community, they might speak a different language to staff and other residents, and homes may not understand or meet their individual cultural needs.

Our previous research showed living in an aged care facility could make some older people feel disempowered. Language and cultural diversity can further add to that disempowerment. For the older people we studied, communication, companionship, and staff knowing them as individuals was very important.




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Language is particularly important for older people’s physical health and well-being. Many culturally and linguistically diverse older people say they speak English well. However, with age and cognitive decline, they may lose the ability to communicate in English and revert to their first language.

And as more than half of nursing home residents have dementia, with the associated deterioration in language and cognition, communication can be more difficult still.

Appreciating someone’s cultural background can help residents make friends.
from www.shutterstock.com

Being aware of their peer’s culture and language can help residents build relationships with each other, family and staff.

Different cultural expectations and language barriers can create misunderstanding and resident and family dissatisfaction. This can affect residents’ care and quality of life.




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How can we support appropriate care?

Aged care needs to be responsive, inclusive and sensitive to a person’s culture, language and spiritual needs. So it is important for nursing homes to understand those needs.

For those who are culturally diverse, government-funded support and culturally specific nursing homes can help. These include services for Greek, Italian, Dutch, Jewish and Chinese older people, reflecting post-war migration.

However, organisations like these cannot meet everyone’s needs. So all residents need care that respects cultural and social differences, works with older people and family, and supports choice.




Read more:
What do Aboriginal Australians want from their aged care system? Community connection is number one


What might appropriate care look like?

Staff need ongoing cultural competence training to deliver appropriate and supportive care.

Staff cannot know everything about the many cultural and language groups in Australia. They can, however, practise in way that is culturally appropriate, by:

  • never making assumptions about someone’s culture, heritage, language or individual needs. No two people are the same, even if they are from the same culture and language background

  • talking to the resident with an interpreter, if needed

  • learning what is important to the resident. For example, staff could ask family members or close friends to bring in photos or mementos important to the older person

  • talking with family of residents who are unable to communicate in English to make a list of key words or phrases for staff. This could include how to say “hello”, or how to ask “are you comfortable?”, or “are you in pain?”

  • making sure the older person isn’t isolated in the nursing home. This could involve working with the local community of the person’s culture, and asking for volunteers who could come and visit the older person.

Family members can be a huge help to staff in understanding the resident’s language, culture and preferences.
Nadya Chetah/Shutterstock

Appropriate and respectful aged care is a human right

Culture and language diversity in aged care is a fundamental human right. Embedding diversity in all aspects of aged care is also recognised by government, and in how the quality of aged care is assessed.

New aged care quality standards, which came into effect this July, include being treated with dignity and respect, with identity, culture and diversity valued, and all residents able to make informed choices about the care and services they receive.




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If the outcomes of this royal commission are to benefit Australians now and especially in the future, older people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds must not be an afterthought in the aged care discussion. They must be part of the planning.The Conversation

Helen Rawson, Senior Research Fellow, Deakin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The home hospital model of care reduces costs and improves quality of care

News Release
December 2019| Brigham and Women’s Hospital: Home Hospital Reduces Costs, Improves Care

First randomized controlled trial of home hospital model in the U.S. reports improvements in outcomes meaningful to health systems and patients – sets stage for transformation of acute care delivery

Boston, MA — The home hospital model of care — in which select patients receive hospital-level care for an acute illness from the comfort of their own home instead of in a traditional hospital — has become increasingly popular across the United States. A pilot study conducted by investigators at Brigham and Women’s Hospital indicated that the home hospital model has the potential to lower costs and improve care. Now, the results of the investigators’ randomized controlled trial with more patients strengthens the evidence, showing that home hospital care reduced cost, utilization, and readmissions while increasing physical activity compared with usual hospital care. Results are published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

“This work cements the idea that, for the right patients, we can deliver hospital-level care outside of the four walls of the traditional hospital and provides more of the data we need to make home hospital care the standard of care in our country,” said corresponding author David Levine, MD, MPH, MA, a physician and researcher in the Division of General Internal Medicine and Primary Care. “It opens up so many exciting possibilities — it’s exciting for patients because it gives them the opportunity to be in a familiar setting, and it’s exciting for clinicians because we get to be with a patient in that person’s own surroundings. As a community-minded hospital, this is a way for us to bring excellent care to our community.”

Levine and colleagues enrolled 91 adults into their trial. Each patient had been admitted via the emergency department at Brigham and Women’s Hospital or Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital with a select acute condition — including infection, heart failure exacerbation, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbation and asthma exacerbation — and lived within five miles of the hospital. Patients were randomized to either stay at the hospital and receive standard care or receive care at home, which included nurse and physician home visits, intravenous medications, remote monitoring, video communication and point-of-care testing.

The team measured the total direct cost of care, including costs for nonphysician labor, supplies, medications and diagnostic tests. They found that for patients who received care at home, total costs were 38 percent lower than for control patients. Home hospital patients had fewer lab orders, used less imaging and had fewer consultations. The team also found that home hospital patients spent a smaller portion of their day sedentary or lying down and had lower readmission rates within 30 days than control patients. Because of the strength of its positive findings, the study was stopped early.

Levine notes that payment remains a challenge for the home hospital model, in part because most insurance companies do not yet recognize the home as a place where hospital-level care happens, although Brigham is making headway with insurers. With the conclusion of the trial, the Brigham is now increasing home hospital capacity to make it clinically available to more patients.

Levine and his colleagues are continuing to test and improve the home hospital model.

“We know there’s always more work to be done, and so we pride ourselves on being a continuous learning and innovation shop,” he said. “We’re now launching trials that include remote patient care, we’re adding artificial intelligence to home hospital care and we’re even exploring ways to bring home hospital care to rural settings. We’ll continue to refine and spread this model so that even more patients can get home hospital care.”

This work is supported by the Partners HealthCare Center for Population Health and internal departmental funds. Levine reports grants from Biofourmis outside the submitted work. A co-author reports consulting income from Verily, GreyBird Ventures, and Atlas5D outside the submitted work. A co-author reports grants from Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals and Portola Pharmaceuticals outside the submitted work. Disclosures can also be viewed here.

A guidebook for local governments and community based organisations to support elderly people with waste collection

CAPTION
The basic tasks involved in support programs are collecting and transporting wastes from elderly people’s homes, the details of the system depend on who transports the wastes and where they go. For example, activities that enlist neighbourhood residents to help the elderly take out the trash can serve as an impetus to community building.
CREDIT NIES

Taking out the trash is a daily chore that we don’t think out often. We pop our rubbish down the chute in our apartments, push out the wheelie bins once a week or just dump our bags of rubbish in the communal bins. For older adults who may be living alone and experience social isolation, taking out the rubbish may be a very challenging tasks. In a previous experience volunteering to provide help in cleaning up homes for older adults, some older adults may end up hording trash or unwanted items in their homes. Items range from take away boxes to bigger items such as a damaged mattress that had a hole in the middle. Some older adults may be caregiver to spouses or they may be living alone in isolation with chronic ailments such as osteoarthritis, neuropathic pain, pulmonary issues etc. Environments they live in may be age-friendly or supportive in aiding them with make the task easier. Some smaller apartments may not have elevators, and older adults have to climb multiple flights of stairs. They may be living on a property that may not be levelled, or one with slopes and uneven paths.

Visiting some of the homes that were labelled “unsanitary” or “hoarders”, it is clear that these individuals really just required help in taking out the rubbish and they don’t want to have trash sitting around in the house but it was just too challenging to take the rubbish out. As rubbish accumulates in the home, older adults get stressed as well, recognising that they live in squalor but not knowing where to seek help. Some older adults have even mentioned that they were embarrassed to seek help and for people to witness them living in such conditions. In many countries, older adults have not know where to seek help or have the financial means to attain help at home with little tasks, however with a little help, they will be able to age in place positively in the community. One such couple I met in their 80s only had some primary school education, little health literacy, no family and they were both working as cleaners due to little financial support despite the fact that one of them was living with vascular dementia. The irony was that they had spent the day cleaning public places, by the time they were done they were physically too tired to clean their home resulting in self-neglect. We all can relate to feeling tired after a long day at work, and these older adults were on their feet for hours at a time in the day, and at 80 continuing to contribute to society, refusing to be a burden at the expense of their physical and mental health. A program such as this, having community organisations lend a hand can contribute greatly to the quality of life to the older adults living in the community and reducing waste management issues. Sometimes, it just needs a little step in the right direction and it can contribute greatly to the ability of older adults being able to age in place. Below is a news release of the guidebook and information related to the program. You can also find a web link to the guidebook below.

CAPTION
The core issue related to taking out the trash by the elderly is that increasing numbers of elderly people find it difficult to take out the trash but are unable to receive the support they need. The inability to take out the trash by elderly people can lead to three different consequences: a) storing the trash in the house, b) taking out the trash improperly, and c) continuing to take out the trash even though it is too difficult.
CREDIT NIES

NEWS RELEASE 12th DEC 2019: NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES

One of the issues related to waste management in aging society is helping elderly people who find it difficult to take out the trash. In the face of the aging of society and increasing numbers of nuclear (one- and two-generation) family households, more and more elderly people are in need of support.

In Japan, many local governments have introduced a program to support elderly people taking out their trash. Through our research, we have come to realize that helping the elderly to dispose of waste will not only ensure that waste is reliably collected from their households, but also improve their quality of life, help prevent isolation, foster trust in waste management businesses, and help promote stronger community ties.

CAPTION
In Japan, as of 2015, 23% of local governments offered programs supporting collection of ordinary waste, recyclable materials, and bulky waste. Such programs were in effect in roughly 80% of ordinance-designated major cities, but in less than 10% of towns and villages.
CREDIT NIES

This scientific research based guidebook is an English edited version of our Japanese guidebook to help local governments and community based organizations (CBOs) design and operate programs to support the elderly taking out their trash. Based on examples and data collected through reserch, it contains explanation on the background of this issue, methods to support the elderly, and process to design a program to provide support.

“Let’s Take Out the Trash!”
A Guidebook for Local Governments and CBOs to Support Elderly People. For a copy of the guide, please visit http://www-cycle.nies.go.jp/eng/report/aging2_en.html

Green roofs improve the urban environment – so why don’t all buildings have them?

Green roofs improve the urban environment – so why don’t all buildings have them?

USEPA/Flickr.

Michael Hardman, University of Salford and Nick Davies, University of Salford

Rooftops covered with grass, vegetable gardens and lush foliage are now a common sight in many cities around the world. More and more private companies and city authorities are investing in green roofs, drawn to their wide-ranging benefits which include savings on energy costs, mitigating the risk from floods, creating habitats for urban wildlife, tackling air pollution and urban heat and even producing food.

A recent report in the UK suggested that the green roof market there is expanding at a rate of 17% each year. The world’s largest rooftop farm will open in Paris in 2020, superseding similar schemes in New York City and Chicago. Stuttgart, in Germany, is thought of as “the green roof capital of Europe”, while Singapore is even installing green roofs on buses.

These increasingly radical urban designs can help cities adapt to the monumental challenges they face, such as access to resources and a lack of green space due to development. But buy-in from city authorities, businesses and other institutions is crucial to ensuring their success – as is research investigating different options to suit the variety of rooftop spaces found in cities.

A growing trend

The UK is relatively new to developing green roofs, and governments and institutions are playing a major role in spreading the practice. London is home to much of the UK’s green roof market, mainly due to forward-thinking policies such as the 2008 London Plan, which paved the way to more than double the area of green roofs in the capital.

Although London has led the way, there are now “living labs” at the Universities of Sheffield and Salford which are helping to establish the precedent elsewhere. The IGNITION project – led by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority – involves the development of a living lab at the University of Salford, with the aim of uncovering ways to convince developers and investors to adopt green roofs.

Ongoing research is showcasing how green roofs can integrate with living walls and sustainable drainage systems on the ground, such as street trees, to better manage water and make the built environment more sustainable.

Research is also demonstrating the social value of green roofs. Doctors are increasingly prescribing time spent gardening outdoors for patients dealiong with anxiety and depression. And research has found that access to even the most basic green spaces can provide a better quality of life for dementia sufferers and help prevent obesity.

An edible roof at Fenway Park, stadium of the Boston Red Sox.
Michael Hardman, Author provided

In North America, green roofs have become mainstream, with a wide array of expansive, accessible and food-producing roofs installed in buildings. Again, city leaders and authorities have helped push the movement forward – only recently, San Francisco created a policy requiring new buildings to have green roofs. Toronto has policies dating from the 1990s, encouraging the development of urban farms on rooftops.

These countries also benefit from having newer buildings, which make it easier to install green roofs. Being able to store and distribute water right across the rooftop is crucial to maintaining the plants on any green roof – especially on “edible roofs” which farm fruit and vegetables. And it’s much easier to create this capacity in newer buildings, which can typically hold greater weight, than retro-fit old ones. Having a stronger roof also makes it easier to grow a greater variety of plants, since the soil can be deeper.

The new normal?

For green roofs to become the norm for new developments, there needs to be buy-in from public authorities and private actors. Those responsible for maintaining buildings may have to acquire new skills, such as landscaping, and in some cases volunteers may be needed to help out. Other considerations include installing drainage paths, meeting health and safety requirements and perhaps allowing access for the public, as well as planning restrictions and disruption from regular ativities in and around the buildings during installation.

To convince investors and developers that installing green roofs is worthwhile, economic arguments are still the most important. The term “natural capital” has been developed to explain the economic value of nature; for example, measuring the money saved by installing natural solutions to protect against flood damage, adapt to climate change or help people lead healthier and happier lives.

As the expertise about green roofs grows, official standards have been developed to ensure that they are designed, built and maintained properly, and function well. Improvements in the science and technology underpinning green roof development have also led to new variations on the concept.

For example, “blue roofs” increase the capacity of buildings to hold water over longer periods of time, rather than drain away quickly – crucial in times of heavier rainfall. There are also combinations of green roofs with solar panels, and “brown roofs” which are wilder in nature and maximise biodiversity.

If the trend continues, it could create new jobs and a more vibrant and sustainable local food economy – alongside many other benefits. There are still barriers to overcome, but the evidence so far indicates that green roofs have the potential to transform cities and help them function sustainably long into the future. The success stories need to be studied and replicated elsewhere, to make green, blue, brown and food-producing roofs the norm in cities around the world.


Click here to subscribe to our climate action newsletter. Climate change is inevitable. Our response to it isn’t.The Conversation

Michael Hardman, Senior Lecturer in Urban Geography, University of Salford and Nick Davies, Research Fellow, University of Salford

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

World’s largest dementia study reveals 2/3 of people think dementia is a normal part of ageing

News Release
September 2019| Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI): World’s largest dementia study reveals two thirds of people think dementia is a normal part of ageing, rather than a medical condition

95 per cent of participants think they could develop dementia in their lifetime – a survey of 70,000 people across 155 countries reveals

2 in 3 people still think that dementia is a normal part of ageing
62 per cent of healthcare practitioners still think it is a normal part of ageing
Over 50% of healthcare practitioners agree that their own colleagues ignore people living with dementia and 33% of people thought that if they had dementia, they would not be listened to by health professionals
1 in 5 people attribute dementia to bad luck, almost 10 per cent to God’s will and 2 per cent to witchcraft
Every 3 seconds someone in the world develops dementia
London, Friday 20 September – Results from the world’s largest survey on attitudes to dementia reveals a startling lack of global knowledge around dementia, with two thirds of people still thinking the disease is a normal part of ageing rather than a neurodegenerative disorder.

Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), the international federation of 100 Alzheimer associations and federations around the world, ahead of World Alzheimer’s Day tomorrow (21 September) with the release of the World Alzheimer Report 2019: Attitudes to dementia. The report reveals the results of the largest attitudes to dementia survey ever undertaken, with responses from almost 70,000 people across 155 countries and territories. Analysis of the study was carried out by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

The report reveals that stigma around dementia is preventing people from seeking the information, advice, support and medical help that could dramatically improve their length and quality of life for what is one of the world’s fastest growing causes of death globally. The number of people living with dementia is forecast to more than triple, from over 50 million currently, to 152 million by 2050.

“Stigma is the single biggest barrier limiting people around the world from dramatically improving how they live with dementia,” says ADI’s Chief Executive Paola Barbarino. “The consequences of stigma are therefore incredibly important to understand. At the individual level, stigma can undermine life goals and reduce participation in meaningful life activities as well as lower levels of well-being and quality of life. At the societal level, structural stigma and discrimination can influence levels of funding allocated to care and support.”

The report reveals astonishing attitudes towards dementia. Survey respondents included people living with dementia, carers, healthcare practitioners and the general public. A major cause for concern from the report, is the number of people across the world who think that dementia is a natural part of the ageing process.

Forty-eight per cent of respondents believe a person with dementia’s memory will never improve, even with medical support, while one in four people think there is nothing we can do to prevent dementia. These are major barriers to people accessing help, advice and support.

The report reveals that dementia stigma is similar to stigma often associated with mental health, focussed on age and is accentuated by a lack of available medical treatments. In reality, many forms of support exist around the world. Talking and planning can help people to live well with dementia for as long as possible.

“Currently, there is very little information about how stigma manifests in relation to people with dementia and how this may vary around the world,” Barbarino continues. “This detailed survey and report now give us a baseline of information for dementia-related stigma at a global, regional and national level. We’re hopeful these findings can kick start positive reform and change globally.”

The report finds that over 50% of healthcare practitioners agree that their own colleagues ignore people living with dementia and 33% of people thought that if they had dementia, they would not be listened to by health professionals.

Interestingly, 95 per cent of participants think they could develop dementia in their lifetime and over two thirds of people (69.3 per cent) would take a genetic profiling test to learn whether they are at risk of dementia (even though there is currently no disease-modifying treatment). However, two thirds of people still think dementia is a natural part of ageing. The fear of developing dementia is high globally, but the true understanding of the disease is low. This is worrying, as Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are the 5th leading cause of death globally.

Sara Evans-Lacko, Associate Professorial Research Fellow at the Care Policy and Evaluation Centre, LSE, said: “Whereas most stigma studies look at public knowledge and or attitudes, this is the first study to look at the behavioural element – the data collected highlight actual experiences of people. For LSE it has been enriching to be part of the first attempt to create a baseline on dementia attitudes. We are delighted to have been able to bring our rigour and analytical expertise to the table and are conscious of the tremendous importance of this exercise at a global level.”

ADI launched its global campaign ‘Let’s Talk About Dementia’, on 1 September 2019 to mark the beginning of the month of awareness. The campaign is based on the understanding that talking about dementia helps tackle the stigma, normalises language and encourages people to find out more, seek help, advice and support.

Dementia blogger and journalist Pippa Kelly says it is vitally important that as a society we have more conversations about dementia to create better understanding. “Stigma stems from fear. Fear breeds silence, which in turn perpetuates ignorance and misunderstanding,” Kelly says.

Every 3 seconds someone in the world develops dementia but most people with dementia do not receive a diagnosis or support. The annual cost of dementia is over US$ 1 trillion – a figure set to double by 2030. Deaths due to dementias more than doubled between 2000 and 2016, making it the 5th leading cause of global deaths in 2016 compared to 14th in 2000.

The “Let’s Talk About Dementia” campaign simply aims to stimulate a conversation about dementia, the warning signs, risk reduction, who to speak to and where to go for advice. Lack of knowledge about dementia leads to inaccurate assumptions about its effects on the person and their family, as well as negative stereotypes about how a person with dementia will behave, Barbarino says. “Evidence suggests that when people living with dementia and their families are well prepared and supported, initial feelings of shock, anger and grief are balanced by a sense of reassurance and empowerment, so the campaign’s focus is on increasing conversations around dementia globally.”

The full World Alzheimer’s Report 2019: Attitudes to dementia, is available to read here.

For story ideas, interview requests and more information, please contact:

Alzheimer’s Disease International

Annabelle Dick
Mana Communications
T: +64 (0)27 819 7011
E: ad@manacommunications.com

Annie Bliss
Alzheimer’s Disease International
T: +44 20 7981 0886
E: a.bliss@alz.co.uk

About World Alzheimer’s Month

World Alzheimer’s Month is the international campaign every September to raise awareness and challenge the stigma that surrounds dementia. September 2019 will mark the 8th World Alzheimer’s Month. The campaign was launched in 2012: World Alzheimer’s Day is on 21 September each year. For more information, please visit: https://www.alz.co.uk/world-alzheimers-month

About Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI)

ADI is the international federation of 100 Alzheimer associations and federations around the world, in official relations with the World Health Organization. ADI’s vision is prevention, care and inclusion today, and cure tomorrow. ADI believes that the key to winning the fight against dementia lies in a unique combination of global solutions and local knowledge. ADI works locally, by empowering Alzheimer associations to promote and offer care and support for persons with dementia and their care partners, while working globally to focus attention on dementia and campaign for policy change. For more information, please visit http://www.alz.co.uk.

Truly smart homes could help dementia patients live independently

PixOfPop/Shutterstock

Dorothy Monekosso, Leeds Beckett University

You might already have what’s often called a “smart home”, with your lights or music connected to voice-controlled technology such as Alexa or Siri. But when researchers talk about smart homes, we usually mean technologies that use artificial intelligence to learn your habits and automatically adjust your home in response to them. Perhaps the most obvious example of this are thermostats that learn when you are likely to be home and what temperature you prefer, and adjust themselves accordingly without you needing to change the settings.

My colleagues and I are interested in how this kind of true smart home technology could help people with dementia. We hope it could learn to recognise the different domestic activities a dementia sufferer carries out throughout the day and help them with each one. This could even lead up to the introduction of household robots to automatically assist with chores.

The growing number of people with dementia is encouraging care providers to look to technology as a way of supporting human carers and improving patients’ quality of life. In particular, we want to use technology to help people with dementia live more independently for as long as possible.

Dementia affects people’s cognitive abilities (things like perception, learning, memory and problem-solving skills). There are many ways that smart home technology can help with this. It can improve safety by automatically closing doors if they are left open or turning off cookers if they are left unattended. Bed and chair sensors or wearable devices can detect how well someone is sleeping or if they have been inactive for an unusual amount of time.

Lights, TVs and phones can be controlled by voice-activated technology or a pictorial interface for people with memory problems. Appliances such as kettles, fridges and washing machines can be controlled remotely.

People with dementia can also become disoriented, wander and get lost. Sophisticated monitoring systems using radiowaves inside and GPS outside can track people’s movements and raise an alert if they travel outside a certain area.

All of the data from these devices could be fed in to complex artificial intelligence that would automatically learn the typical things people do in the house. This is the classic AI problem of pattern matching (looking for and learning patterns from lots of data). To start with, the computer would build a coarse model of the inhabitants’ daily routines and would then be able to detect when something unusual is happening, such as not getting up or eating at the usual time.

A finer model could then represent the steps in a particular activity such as washing hands or making a cup of tea. Monitoring what the person is doing step by step means that, if they forget halfway through, the system can remind them and help them continue.

The more general model of the daily routine could use innocuous sensors such as those in beds or doors. But for the software to have a more detailed understanding of what is happening in the house you would need cameras and video processing that would be able to detect specific actions such as someone falling over. The downside to these improved models is a loss of privacy.

Future smart homes could include robot carers.
Miriam Doerr Martin Frommherz/Shutterstock

The smart home of the future could also come equipped with a humanoid robot to help with chores. Research in this area is moving at a steady, albeit slow, pace, with Japan taking the lead with nurse robots.

The biggest challenge with robots in the home or care home is that of operating in an unstructured environment. Factory robots can operate with speed and precision because they perform specific, pre-programmed tasks in a purpose-designed space. But the average home is less structured and changes frequently as furniture, objects and people move around. This is a key problem which researchers are investigating using artificial intelligence techniques, such as capturing data from images (computer vision).

Robots don’t just have the potential to help with physical labour either. While most smart home technologies focus on mobility, strength and other physical characteristics, emotional well-being is equally important. A good example is the PARO robot, which looks like a cute toy seal but is designed to provide therapeutic emotional support and comfort.

Understanding interaction

The real smartness in all this technology comes from automatically discovering how the person interacts with their environment in order to provide support at the right moment. If we just built technology to do everything for people then it would actually reduced their independence.

For example, emotion-recognition software could judge someone’s feelings from their expression could adjust the house or suggest activities in response, for example by changing the lighting or encouraging the patient to take some exercise. As the inhabitant’s physical and cognitive decline increases, the smart house would adapt to provide more appropriate support.

There are still many challenges to overcome, from improving the reliability and robustness of sensors, to preventing annoying or disturbing alarms, to making sure the technology is safe from cybercriminals. And for all the technology, there will always be a need for a human in the loop. The technology is intended to complement human carers and must be adapted to individual users. But the potential is there for genuine smart homes to help people with dementia live richer, fuller and hopefully longer lives.The Conversation

Dorothy Monekosso, Professor of Computer Science, Leeds Beckett University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Using technology to support caregivers of older people with dementia

Technology can be used to support the caregivers of people living with dementia, however, developers and designers need to take caregiver needs into consideration.
Shutterstock

Janet Fast, University of Alberta

In June, the government of Canada released its long-awaited Dementia Strategy for Canada: Together We Aspire.

As a family caregiving researcher for more than two decades and a former family caregiver to my father, who had dementia, the strategy was welcome news. But my own research and personal experience suggest that we’re falling short of the aspiration to be “a Canada in which all people living with dementia and caregivers are valued and supported.”

I agree, perhaps selfishly, that research and innovation are essential for effective implementation of the dementia strategy. AGE-WELL NCE, Canada’s technology and aging network, engages older people, caregivers, product developers and designers in the development of technologies that can make their lives better.

I co-lead the AGE-WELL research project that is responsible for adding to what we already know about caregivers’ needs, developing new technologies to meet those needs and advocating for new policies and practices that will reduce the negative consequences of care. My team’s work shows clearly that caregiving takes a toll on the nearly half million Canadians caring for a family member or friend with dementia. Other caregivers also pay a price: poorer physical and mental health, social isolation and loneliness, financial hardship and insecurity. But that price is steeper when caring for someone with dementia.

Caring time and labour

Caregiving is time-consuming for all caregivers, averaging nine-and-a-half hours per week. It is more time-intensive for dementia caregivers, who provide more than 13 hours per week on average. Collectively, those half million dementia caregivers spent 342 million hours on care tasks in 2012, the equivalent of more than 171,000 full-time employees.

Care also is a different experience for men and women and these differences are more pronounced among dementia caregivers than others. Women dementia caregivers are more likely than men to experience negative health, social, employment and financial outcomes.

Layer on persistent gender wage discrimination and ineffective financial compensation strategies and it’s little wonder that a quarter of female dementia carers experienced care-related financial hardship. These caregivers often modify spending or defer savings to cover care-related expenses. This was a problem for only one in seven of their male counterparts.

Technological support

Existing technologies that can make caregivers’ jobs easier include GPS-enabled tracking and monitoring systems, smartphone and tablet applications, emergency alert systems, tele-health services, networking platforms and many others. But technology adoption and retention is poor, with 70 to 90 per cent of innovations failing.

An understanding caregivers’ needs can help technology developers in the design of apps and products that meet those needs.
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Sometimes this is because available technologies don’t meet caregiver needs very well. Many product designers and developers create the technology for the sake of it, without knowing whether caregivers want it or are prepared to use it. As a result, technology can have both negative and positive impacts on caregivers.

Traditional problem‐focused approaches to technology design can limit discussions to performing caregiving tasks, and fail to capture the complexity of “being in care relationships.” Product developers and designers need to understand caregivers’ complicated lives and unique needs if they’re to develop successful strategies for developing, promoting and delivering technologies to support family caregivers effectively.

Disrupting how we develop technologies by integrating caregivers into design practice so that it’s their experiences and expertise that drive the process is more likely to lead to products and services that solve their real-life problems, improve their well-being and, ultimately, succeed in the marketplace.

Supporting caregivers

While there are technologies and services that can help support caregivers, it’s usually up to caregivers to find them. Navigating a fragmented system of health and social supports is challenging, time-consuming, frustrating and often futile.

One of our team’s projects is addressing this challenge by applying a new type of artificial intelligence called cognitive computing. We have created an online tool that connects family caregivers to products that will support them and their family member or friend with dementia.

It will be far more specific and powerful than the usual search engines, allowing family carers to describe in plain language the problem they want to solve.

CARE-RATE uses cognitive computing to support caregivers looking for information and support.

A second project uses a co-creation process that taps caregivers’ experiences to develop a web portal that provides ongoing follow-up and training in the use of mobility aids such as canes, walkers, wheelchairs or scooters, when and where they need it.

A third project is asking caregivers to tell [researchers] about their preferences and priorities for technological solutions to some of their biggest challenges.

As our population grows older, disability rates increase and pressure on our health and continuing care sectors also grows. We have to understand, recognize and support family caregivers and their valuable work if we’re to meet the challenge.

Of course, technology alone is not enough to sustain the largely unpaid work of family caregivers. According to University of Birmingham social policy professor Paul Burstow, “getting the balance right between ‘tech’ and ‘touch’ is vital.”

From my perspective:

“We need to recognize the value of family caregivers’ work and their right to ‘have a life[’]; ensure that there are adequate, accessible and affordable services for care receivers and caregivers; organize workplaces and labour policy so that caregivers can keep earning a living alongside their care work as long as possible; and when caregiving still results in financial hardship for some, we need to be ready with anti-poverty measures.”

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Janet Fast, Professor and Co-Director, Research on Aging, Policies and Practice, University of Alberta

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.