Robots to help improve the care of dementia patients

An aged care and technology forum in Sydney in April will hear how interactive robots are being used to improve the care and quality of life.

 

The inaugural Ageing – The Future Technology Challenge Forum will reveal some of the new advances in robot technology worldwide, the changing nature of relationships between humans and machines and the social benefits and the dangers.

 

The Forum will be opened by Federal Shadow Minister for Ageing and Mental Health Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells.

 

The event will close with a debate between aged care and technology experts who will examine if the use of interactive robots represents a disturbing turn in the treatment of the elderly or can be seen as an innovation in care giving.

 

General Manager of Research and Innovation with Alzheimer’s Australia SA, Tim Wallace, will show the audience how robots are currently used in aged care facilities to support the care of people with dementia.

 

“Robots are also increasingly being used in day care centres and health service facilities to help provide positive psychological, physiological and social effects for aged care residents,” Mr Wallace said.

 

Several studies are under way in Australia to measure the usefulness of automated electronic robot technologies designed to help improve the quality of care for dementia patients. Passive automated technologies like GPS and motion sensors are increasingly being used to improve the management and safety of dementia patients living in the community.

 

Mr Wallace said Alzheimer’s Australia SA had been investigating a new virtual reality tool developed by Flinders University called Memory, And Navigation Assistant (or MANA Calendar) which has been developed for older people with early onset dementia to improve their quality of life while giving their care givers peace of mind.

 

The MANA system is a computer-generated “person” that reminds people of appointments and prompts them to perform routine activities such as eating meals and watching their favourite television show.

 

Mr Wallace said many older people with early onset dementia were often cared for at home and their care givers were not always present to provide support.

 

“The MANA Calendar allows care givers to create a schedule of appointments and activities using Google Calendars. A computer with an in-built camera, microphone and speakers is set up in the home and, at a specified time, the head on the screen will ‘speak’ a reminder,” Mr Wallace said.

 

Mr Wallace said Alzheimer’s Australia SA was keen to establish if systems like the MANA Calendar could also help caregivers who may otherwise feel they cannot leave the house for extended periods of time and offered an opportunity for increased independence for people living

with dementia.

 

Speakers at the Ageing – The Future Technology Challenge Forum include Dr Bruce MacDonald, Director of Robotics Research Group at Auckland University, Associate Professor Rajiv Khosla, Director of Research Centre for Computers, Communication and Social Innovation, La Trobe University and Joan Kelly from Humana Inc, one of the world’s largest Aged Care service providers. Ms Kelly will reveal how robotic technology is transforming aged care in the US.

 

The forum is sponsored by Australian Aged Care medical technology company, Simavita. Registration is limited and can be made by visiting www.simavita.com or contacting: Jenny Hungerford, Simavita, (02) 8405 6381 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

The forum will be held on Friday 1 April 2011 at  Australian Museum Sydney, 6 College St, Sydney NSW 2000.

 

The forum attracts 6.5 hours of Continuing Professional Development for The College of Nursing’s continuing development program.

 

23 March 2011.