When the topic of future technology is laid on the table, it seems that the ageing population have very little on their plate. Although as a nurse specialising on elderly care for almost a decade, Rowena Sunglao has enough experience to speculate the future of technology in an aged care facility.
What do you do?
I am an Assistant Nurse in an aged care facility, I’ve been working there since 2006. Looking after elderly, assisting them on activities of daily life, personal hygiene, mobility, complex health issues and ensuring safety of elderly with cognitive impairment.
In your course of work what kind of technology or equipment do you use daily?
We have a computer system called SARA where we enter progress notes and care plan for each resident. Reporting incidents such as fall, physical and verbal aggression. Some of the equipments I use daily are standing lifter, passive lifter, blood pressure machine, thermometer, the must-haves.
Any advance technology recently introduced?
I wouldn’t say advance technology but mostly our equipment just get updated with no special technology. We just recently updated the beds into mechanical beds where you can elevate or lower the patient electronically.
But that kind of technology was introduced such a long time ago. You’re saying mechanical beds just arrived to your aged care?
Yes, You’ll be surprised how outdated most aged care facilities are.
How about on medicating? Any advancement recently?
We started MEDSIG not long ago, another computer based system, we basically click on the photo of the elderly and we see their medication details such as diagnosis, current medication, allergies and all other relevant personal details. It mainly helps us keep in track of their medication.
Any particular technology or equipment that you noticed helped significantly with the residents’ situations?
We have a special mattress for bed bound residents, it helps them with their blood circulation. When we install the mattress there is a special digital pump where we register the patient’s weight and it pumps the right amount of air into the mattress according to their weight.
Would you say this Air mattress is one of many factors that prolong the life of the user?
Yes of course, blood circulation is very important.
When you talk to the residents does the topic of future technology comes up?
Yes, one of my patient wishes that us staffs would not have to manually carry the legs of bed bound patients when we help them up using the standing lifter. This patient wishes there’s a an equipment gentle enough to do the task
Do you know what they think about robotic care?
It scares them.
Right now there’s a robot called Zeno that helps children with autism with their social skills, this robot shows facial expression and emphatises with the children according to their response.
Hypothetically in 2050 a robot has been developed to care for elderly. Other than the obvious prediction that these robots will fail to connect with elderly in an emotional level what else do you see could go wrong if robots do replace you in your job?
In my job the situation changes in a blink of an eye, I imagine the robot won’t have the flexibility to cope with sudden changes. For example, when I prepare my patient for showering, in my mind the steps to do so are set chronologically but suddenly the patient starts bleeding, the task I’m supposed to do it completely out of the window and the new priority is to quickly stop the bleeding. I predict the robot will be stuck on a set task of showering the patient and won’t be able to act quick and stop the bleeding.