I was planning my next technology post to focus on currently-available products that can help reduce the overall cost of home care by reducing the hours required to pay a home care agency for data collection and monitoring.  There is a range of products – from medication dispensers to home systems with motion sensors and cameras – that can provide security without invading privacy, and that do so at a fraction of the cost of in-home care.  These products are mature, available, and they can be valuable tools to families, but I'll have to write about them later because the attached it just too much fun to discuss. 

A recent New York Times article describes a lab project that is NOT yet widely available. Used with dementia patients, it is modeled after a baby harp seal, and it "trills and paddles when petted, blinks when the lights go up, opens its eyes at loud noises and yelps when handled roughly or held upside down."  It's a pet without the mess!  It is well-known that many dementia sufferers improved and find it very soothing to devote care-giving to pets or to plants; according to the Times article, many of these benefits can be derived by interacting with "Paro," whose name is derived from conflating the words "personal robot."

This calls to mind not so much the frightening human-like computer Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey, but rather the friendly and gentle C3PO from Star Wars.  And while human interaction with dementia sufferers is crucial (for a terrific book on this topic, read Learning to Speak Alzheimers), Paro may well be a tool that some families use in years to come.

For the next post, however, I will return to currently-available technology that can make a difference for families today.  Home care agencies could do better here to help some clients reduce their hours of required care.  In the next few days, I will identify a few product families that can deliver on this promise.

Trackback URL: