Residents can ask their virtual personal assistants for a wide range of support – from a call to the maintenance team to fix their TV and care assistance, to finding out about social events they can get involved in and talking to other residents remotely – smart speaker to smart speaker.
Cavendish Park Care Home Resident, Sandy James, said: “It’s helped me change how I live here. I now know more about what’s going on and I can ask about the activities planned. It makes we feel more connected.”
The technology works by alerting the right member of the team first time to the resident request. If a resident has a leaking shower, for example, the call ‘Alexa, my shower is leaking’ goes straight to a member of the maintenance team. It seems like a small thing, but it is making a big difference.
“It really supports the team as well as the residents”, adds Angela. “Before for something like this a resident would press the nurse call buzzer. A carer would arrive and then go to hunt down the maintenance guy. It meant members of the team were getting involved in a task that they didn’t need to be and in a busy home that’s a lot of time being used and taken away carers being able to spend quality time with residents.”
And the technology isn’t just freeing up carer time and connecting residents to social activities. The technology itself is providing a companion.
A study by Ofcom revealed that smart speaker owners consider their device as a companion especially if they live alone. With many believing it was good for combatting loneliness and liked the fact they could talk to their speakers.
The research said a large number of people ‘anthropomorphise’ their smart speakers calling them ‘he’ or ‘she’. Many also say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to their device and ‘read intent’ in the way the speaker responds like they would during a human interaction.
For disabled people especially the Ofcom study found that the smart speakers ‘had a significant impact on their lives’, allowing them ‘greater independence’ and improving their ‘conditions and abilities’.
“Residents have absolutely flown with the technology,” said Mel Hoskins, manager of Cavendish Park Care Home. “We have residents that are asking it for jokes, to share riddles, to arrange their social lives.”
Findings published by the Campaign to End Loneliness highlighted the numerous studies that have shown a correlation between loneliness and deteriorating health.
Loneliness is directly associated with an increased risk of conditions such as coronary heart disease, stroke, and depression.
In fact, social isolation is understood to be a comparable early death risk factor to smoking 15 cigarettes each day. Furthermore a ‘high degree’ of loneliness has also been found to double a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s. (3)
While technology can never replace people, it can help power the human connection we all crave no matter how old we are.
(1) Christina R Victor called ‘Loneliness in case homes: a neglected area of research?
(2) University of Bedfordshire.
(3) Age UK.