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Delray Beach, FL, Westport, MA, United States
Undergraduate degree, Colby College; MA in teaching, Columbia Teacher's College; former high school English teacher in three states; former owner of interior design co. with advanced degree from R.I. School of Design. Published first book in 2009 titled, MINOR LEAGUE MOM: A MOTHER'S JOURNEY THROUGH THE RED SOX FARM TEAMS. Her humorous manuscript titled ELDERLY PARENTS WITH ALL THEIR MARBLES: A SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR THE KIDS was published in June, 2014. In 2015 A SURVIVAL GUIDE won a gold medal in the self-help category at the Florida Authors & Publishers Association conference. See website By CLICKING HERE.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Granny's New Companion: A Robot Caregiver

The world of caregiving is physically and emotionally exhausting, stressful, frustrating, awkward, and sometimes dirty.  It can also be never-ending.  Yet it can be rewarding and stimulating, tapping into a whole range of experiences and challenges the caregiver never knew existed.

What will happen when there aren't enough caregivers for those who will need them ten years from now?  According to an internet report on the website www.retirementrevised.com, there will be a 48% increase in the need for caregivers in the next decade, with a 1% increase in the supply.

Enter the robots.  Many countries have acknowledged the reality of a dwindling supply of caregivers by investing in robot development, such as Japan and a consortium of European countries.  According to Louise Aronson in "The Future of Robot Caregivers" (NY Times, July 20, 2014), research in the U.S. has been slow to move in this direction.  Within the medical community here, the idea that machines can help fulfill more than just physical needs meets with skepticism and occasional outrage.

We see robots maneuver along hospital corridors to deliver meds.  We know they assist in surgery and rehabilitation and clean up afterwards.  Is it too much of a leap to believe that granny couldn't relate to a robotic companion that would answer her question, remind her to finish her meal and swallow her pill, and then read to her?  Is there a huge difference between that and millions of kids who sit in restaurants communicating with an electronic device instead of their human families?  Are they stimulated and satisfied?  Is loneliness and neglect (or even abuse by a human caregiver) a better situation?

As kids we talked to stuffed animals and dolls. We created a world of pretend and were stimulated.  We weren't lonely.  Today the animals and dolls can move and talk back!

"Imagine this," Aronson says in her article.  "Since the robot caregiver wouldn't require sleep, it would always be alert and available in case of crisis...It could do laundry and other household tasks.  When (the patient) woke, the robot could greet her with a kind, humanlike voice, help her get out of bed safely and make sure she was clean after she used the toilet.  It -she?-he?-would ensure that the patient took the right medications in the right doses.  At breakfast, the robot could chat with her about the weather or news.

"And then...the caregiver robot would offer to read to her.  And after a while the robot would say, 'I wonder whether we should take a break from reading now and get you dressed.  Your daughter's coming to visit today.'"

Will there someday be a world where the robot feels as much happiness as the patient?

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