By physiotherapist Peter Maindal
Assisted living is on the agenda politically as well as at the educational institutions and in the practical age- healthcare sector. It can be difficult to keep track of what is what and what Assisted Living technology actually is. Unfortunately, there exists no official definition of the concept Assisted Living technology, which can be one of the reasons why the definition is unclear.
Oxford Research has a short and clear definition, which is similar to the definition by the Danish Fund for Assisted Living Technology and the Danish Assistive Foundation:
The definition reflects how Assisted Living technology not only is about reducing the use of resources. It is also about increasing quality in treatment and care which benefits both patients and care providers.
When I speak of Assisted Living technology I use this definition.
In all its simplicity, Assisted Living technology is about performing or completing a work task faster and more easily. This can happen by making the process more effective. It can also happen by having fewer people involved in solving the task. In most situations, it is a combination of both.
Many interprets this as the need to fire employees. Nevertheless, I believe that that is a misinterpretation. The fact is that our society is in the middle of a big demographic change. Allow me to use Denmark as an example.
In 2014, we have in Denmark 235.000 citizens aged 80 years or older. In 2020, the number will increase to 271.000 and already in 2030 it will increase to 427.000! In the next 16 years, the population group will increase with 192.000 citizens. We know that about half of this population group needs extensive care. With this knowledge, we can predict that we will see app. 100.000 more citizens requiring care. This will put extreme pressure on our age- and healthcare sector, which we are already beginning to experience.
" During the next 16 years this population will increase with 192,000 citizens! "
In the same 16 years, we will only see the population aged from 20 – 69 years increase with app. 18.000 citizens. In other words, there will be less people to perform care. If we in the future want to keep the same level of quality in age- and healthcare, we need to change or modify the current working methods and the way we organize our care. We cannot survive this huge demographic change without including new technology in Assisted Living. Technology, which makes it possible for the same number of care providers to complete more tasks and care for more people.
You will find similar numbers in all OECD countries, actually all over the world, and I hope that these number helps underline that we cannot afford to fire any personnel. We will definitely need all hands on deck.
“Ease workload” means that Assisted Living technology shall play a part in improving work health and safety so we avoid injuries and being run-down by our jobs. In spite of the great effort made to improve the work environment, we still have a large number of occupational injuries which every year removes people from the work force. You can read more about this element in our articles about Work Health and Safety.
With a large increase in the number of citizens in need of care, it is important that we take good care of the care providers and make sure their work environment is secure so we can prevent occupational injuries. Humanly and economically, it is not sustainable to make people do jobs where we know there is a substantial risk for injuries. A person who leaves the work force because of an injury costs the society a lot of money. Furthermore, it means two hands less in the extensive need for care providers.
The challenge is not only the fact that the number of care needing citizens are increasing. We also need to stay on the work force for longer. A requirement for being able to keep working until we are 70 years old is a proper work environment that will protect us – even when we at the age of 66 years do a difficult and heavy care task.
Assisted Living is also about having effective working tools and procedures, which will diminish the attrition of care providers and the risk of injuries.
" Assisted Living is also about having effective working tools and procedures. "
In the Danish healthcare sector, there is a general perception that the more caregivers and hands present the better and more dignified the care task is for the patient. The general perception is that going from two to one care provider is a degeneration of the quality of the care. However, is this always true?
A number of studies show that the patients wants to keep their own independence for as long as possible. A study from the Danish Elderly Association shows that more than 70% of all elderly people prefers help from robots instead of a care provider when needing help for intimate situations such as using the toilet. This shows that the patients do not have the same view on what constitutes as quality and dignity in the care situation.
We live in a society where young people often move from where they grow up and where their parents live to another part of the country. At the same time, adults lead a hectic work life and have an equally hectic and scare spare time. Could this be part of the explanation to why the elderly feels lonely and insecure? One solution could be a discrete monitoring system, which follows the patient, and alerts care providers or relatives if the patient has had an accident, IE. a fall, and needs help. This will reduce reaction time and the patients will most likely experience a feeling of security.
Assisted Living is not about removing caring hands and degrading the quality of care. On the contrary, Assisted Living will help secure more quality, independence and dignity. Assisted Living will bring new possibilities of meeting the patients on their terms and securing quality and a safe old age.
" Assisted Living will help us providing greater quality of life and independence. "
As I have explained the definition of the concept Assisted Living technology, I hope it has become clear that Assisted Living technology is not a threat. Assisted Living technology is a lifeline for our age- and healthcare sector! Without good and intelligent implementation of technological solutions, we cannot handle the huge change in demographics our society is going through now and the many years to come.
If we do not embrace the Assisted Living technology and work actively with it, we will experience significant deterioration in the age- and healthcare sector.