The aged care royal commission has heard how two home care providers are using technology to support clients, improve quality of life and increase peace of mind for family members.
Gold Coast woman and level three home care package recipient Barbara Ramsay gave evidence on Monday about her use of a virtual social centre provided by Feros Care.
She told a Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety workshop in Adelaide via videolink how the technology has improved her life, made her feel more competent and kept her alert and engaged.
“Sometimes it gives me a reason to get out of bed,” she said. “It’s helped an oldie who wasn’t very familiar with a lot of things. It’s helped me a lot.”
The commission heard that Feros Care provided the tablet free of charge along with training at Ms Ramsay’s Robina home.
Since being linked to the centre she’s had access to a range of online activities including art, Tai Chi, meditation, a book club and French classes.
It also connects her with other people, including a couple at the opal mining town of Lightning Ridge and a person on a farm in the NSW town of Dorrigo.
“There’s a couple who are living at Lightning Ridge … they went for a swim in the mineral pool and so on and told us about the opal mining out there and I find that very instructive,” she said.
“We had a person on a farm up near Dorrigo who was showing us her goats and chickens … there was somebody in Western Australia who joined in.
“To this old duck, that was something pretty special, you know, to think we can be connected like that.”
Ms Ramsay said being connected to the centre has also boosted her confidence with technology and she’s now able to do internet banking.
The commission also heard from Damien Harker, whose 89-year-old father George has dementia and is a level four home care client of ECH.
Mr Harker was questioned about ECH’s Billy app, which provides information about George’s daily activity by collecting data from sensors placed around his home.
The app provides feedback including his father’s movements around the house, how often he opens the fridge and when he uses the toilet.
Mr Harker told the commission the technology gave him and his brother more confidence about managing their father’s health.
“We have got a lot more information available to us,” he said. “We can pick up that app at any time throughout the day or night and get some actual feedback into what’s going on in the house.
“It’s just provided so much assistance to us and peace of mind that, you know, we feel we can better manage dad’s health care.”
About 10 ECH clients are currently using the app, relationship manager Denise Griggs told the commission, and feedback from families has been wonderful.
Care managers are also benefiting from data provided by the app, she told the commission.
“We can have a look at all of our clients in the morning and just have a run-through and see if there are any activities outside of normal parameters and then we could contact the family and let them know,” she said.
Boosting seniors’ tech capability
Feros Care CEO Jennene Buckley told the commission technology has been central to the development of its community care programs.
“Not only in the way that we operate and coordinate services … but we are putting the technology in the hands of our clients and in their homes.”
She says clients are hungry for technology and Feros Care is also launching a pilot program called Let’s Get Technical designed to boost clients’ tech capability. Funded with a CHSP innovation grant, the program is providing 50 clients with an average age of 82 with one-on-one instruction in their homes.
“They want to learn more about, ‘How do you turn this phone on? How can I send a message? How can I send an email? How do I get on to myGov? How do I bank? How do I shop? How can I talk with my family’,” she said.
Dr Tanya Petrovich from Dementia Australia told the commission that while technology is an enabler it doesn’t take away from the need for genuine human to human care.
“The technology can only say so much. It can tell us where they’ve been but it doesn’t tell us have they taken their medication, have they actually had a meal, have they met all their requirements that day,” she said.
The workshop comes after new report by the Australian Computer Society concluded that 50 per cent of jobs in the health care and social assistance sectors could be either automated out of existence, or augmented by robots and artificial intelligence by 2035.
*Main image supplied by Auros