What will care homes be like in the future?
Modern technology is everywhere, and it’s changing fast too. Google’s voice activated Google Assistant and Amazon’s Echo were some of the biggest sellers last Christmas, and it is predicted that the voice recognition industry will be worth some £450 million by next year. The internet in general has taken over our homes, with almost 90 per cent of adults using the internet on a regular basis.
And it’s not just young people who are benefitting from new technology either. Recent statistics show that around four in every 10 over 75’s have used the internet within the last three months, and that internet use among women aged over 75 has trebled since 2011. With all this technology at our fingertips, it makes sense for care homes to look at ways that new innovations can improve the experience for their residents too.
Our technology right now
Here at Fernhill House, we are proud to embrace many of the latest technological innovations to help our residents stay connected, challenge themselves and live better. Already in place in our home are things like:
· Acoustic monitoring: This technology allows our care team to monitor residents during the night without the need to undertake intrusive periodic room checks.
· Electronic Care and Medication Management software: These innovations efficiently record key information at the point of delivery, allowing our teams to spend more quality time with our residents.
· Maintenance and Health and Safety Software: Ensures compliance and identifies best practice.
· IT Suites and Wi-Fi: Our home has high-speed Wi-Fi throughout, along with tablet computers for use by our residents. With our help, they are able to Skype relatives, look up information and send emails on a daily basis. There are also PC’s for use in our modern IT suites. We offer support and silver surfers workshops to help residents understand how to use them, so that they can reap the benefits of a more connected lifestyle.
· Cinema: We have a full in-home cinema for residents to watch movies on the big screen with family and friends.
Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. As new technology is developed, we are constantly assessing what could benefit our residents.
What will care homes look like in the future?
There is much research taking place into how new technology can be adapted and used in the care setting. Some of the most exciting things we’ve heard about include:
· Assistive technology: As virtual assistants such as Alexa become smarter, their usefulness can be augmented. In a care home, these could be employed to remind people to take medication, to help them locate lost items, to communicate with a carer of family member, or even to sound an alarm in case of an emergency.
· Administration assistance: Electronic documentation systems can make it easier and faster for care workers to administer their services. Paperwork in care can be a heavy burden, so any technology that can relieve workers of this burden could see more people with more time to devote to caring, instead of being tied up filling in forms.
· Ambient monitoring technology: We want our residents to be safe and well, but we also want to help them to remain as independent as possible. Ambient monitoring technology can let them do more for themselves, without being put at risk, so that they can cook, move around and undertake other tasks, all whilst under the watchful eye of a completely unobtrusive safety system.
· Smarter homes for less mobile people: With the ability to integrate voice activated technology into virtually any device, the possibilities for residents to have more control over the environment, even if they are severely mobility impaired, is truly exciting. Simply asking their assistant to ‘open the window’, ‘turn off the light’ and ‘play something by Mozart’ could see a whole world of new possibilities arriving for our less mobile residents.
· Wearable health monitoring: Already many of us track our heart rate and steps each day with fitness trackers, so it’s only a small step forward to see these devices tracking respiration, fluid retention and other medical conditions. This could reduce the need for hospital admissions, and lead to faster diagnosis and earlier intervention.
There are many more exciting innovations on the horizon, from robotic suits to help stroke victims walk to holographic virtual pets; the future of care homes is looking very exciting indeed. However, as we always stress to anyone talking about investing in technology, tech should augment care, not replace it. Nothing in the technological world can ever provide what a well-trained, motivated care assistant can, but it could make their jobs easier, allowing them more time to engage with residents in a meaningful way.