Robopets – a step too far in cutting costs of elderly care

Blog posted

11th November 2009

Anything which actively stimulates the brain as people start to enter old age has got to be good but the latest suggestions from a study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation Centre feel like a step too far.

Cost-saving devices, however futuristic they are, can never take the place of human interaction and face-to-face contact which is essential in a care environment where so much is detected from simply seeing and talking to a client.

The image of robots and technical aids performing all manner of duties in and around the home, or in a care home setting, paints an extremely sterile picture to me. Little stimulation, less conversation, and a more structured and repetitive routine cannot benefit the client.

Probably a predictable question, but what happens if there’s a malfunction? The wrong tablets are dispensed at the wrong time, or, even worse, no tablets are dispensed at all. And what if the walking frame issues incorrect instructions?

The danger is, these devices are introduced and prove so cost-efficient that they are automatically adopted across the sector. But budget savings should not enter into this if people’s on-going care is not sufficiently being met and I very much doubt that a talking coffee table or a robopet can adequately do the job.

We cannot stand in the way of technology and many of the initiatives being explored sound exciting, such as the kitchen equipment, and could prove extremely useful in the care setting. But the moment we try to suggest automation takes the place of human interaction and care in its most real form, we need to stop there.

Our profession is full of people who care passionately about their clients and their well-being. To suggest a robopet can do a better job is a kick in the teeth for these people, many of whom have devoted their life and their career to making a difference for people in their later years.

Paul Walsh
Managing Director, Care Division