When I first got on the property ladder and started living in my own flat by myself the sense of independence and achievement was fantastic. Of course, I had lots of friends in the city and through sports and social I had lots of people and a sense of belonging. When I wasn’t with my friends and family for long periods of several days or sometimes weeks there was a sense of loneliness.
Loneliness comes in all shapes and sizes. There’s lots of loneliness in society due to all sorts of social and economic reasons. Indeed, we can talk about all sorts of less fortunate and disadvantaged people in our society and the causes and effects of loneliness. However, I want to focus on the baby boomers.
According to Connect2Affect, more than 8 million Americans over 50 are affected by isolation, which is a “growing health epidemic”. Therefore, it’s interesting to see how voice recognition devices for the home could help to combat loneliness for vulnerable elderly people.
Amazon’s Alexa can be used for the daily news briefing, finding out the weather and the time. It is all good and well for entertainment. More interesting is how friends and family can stay in touch with the ageing population whether that might be checking on whether they’ve taken their medicines that day or simply asking how they are getting on.
Age UK found that 3.6 million older people live alone, 2 million of whom are 75 or over. Additionally, 1.9 million older adults frequently feel invisible or ignored. These feelings of loneliness can greatly impact a person’s wellbeing, but may be worse for seniors who struggle to interact socially on a regular basis.
Voice assistants are being increased in use within the health care system. This might be to create a healthcare audit for reporting purposes. Or, it could be to reduce administration time in the back office so that nurses can attend patients more timely. It could be a way in which care homes interact with both the patients but also the wider family on difficult decisions.
Some families live away from their elderly parents and find it difficult to stay in touch with the nursing professionals. Voice messaging can give a greater customer service to the patient and peace of mind to the wider family and loved ones.
There are still certain matters that would be impractical and inappropriate to use voice messaging such as patient confidentiality. You wouldn’t want an elderly patient broadcasting in the living room to other patients with their healthcare issues. You would, however, want loved ones to know of an elderly patient taking a fall and of bad news you want to be delivered early.
The reality is that more often nurses are busy nursing and aren’t manning the phones so voicemail and callbacks are prevalent in nursing homes. Whilst getting a call back from a secretary is okay it’s not as good as getting a voice note from the carer themselves to the family.
So whilst voice messaging comes useful through Alexa Skills and the Amazon Echo and other such devices, there are big opportunities between the nursing professionals and connecting them in a new way to the wider family. By doing this you can drive the productivity of low value admin whilst increasing the levels of service to patients as they grow old.
We will all grow old at some point and in our latter years having a more connected carers network with wider families whether that’s meals on wheels, social workers, nurses or doctors this can only be a good thing for both the patient and the carer.