Rethinking Aged Care means listening to what elderly people and their carers actually want.
It means solving THEIR problems, not forcing other people solutions on them. And it means accepting that Aged Care is different to acute hospital care. But no less important
Until recently, Aged Care has been the ugly duckling of the health care industry. Some hospitals have been transformed into glamorous hotels and a third of the health budget is believed to be wasted on over-servicing. However nursing homes run on a minimal staffing ratio, regularly use recycled toiletries and skimp on wound dressings.
Things are changing.
At the End of Aged Care meetup last week held by Peak15, a number of service providers spoke frankly about the difficulties of their work and their passion for the elderly people they care for.
Older people want to maintain control over their lives
Matiu Bush from RSL Care made the audience laugh with his stories about over-priced robots that administrators had spent lots of money on but ended up gathering dust, because nobody wanted to use them.
If elderly people were asked what they wanted, the answer might be to stay in touch with the grandkids, or listen to their favourite music. If carers were asked what they wanted, the answer might be more lifting hoists, and medical records that can be accessed from anywhere in the facility.
Aged care staff deal in realities Matiu pointed out.
Aged care is about common sense, managing the moment and quality of life.
“I care about how the people I look after interact with the world around them, not how well they operate some high tech software”
Elizabeth Crooks from SofiHub uses advanced technology in a home-based, non obtrusive way.
SofiHub is a new system that uses sensors to gather data about elderly people in their home. The smart sensors link back to a central hub that is kept in the home. Think Amazon Echo or Apple home kit.
The computing analytics enables SofiHub to monitor people’s daily activities, keep track of appointments and can even assess if local weather patterns will have an impact on their care.
The system can trigger reminders such as medications due and upcoming appointments. It can keep relatives and the medical team up to date with any changes. SofiHub is designed to be non intrusive while keeping elderly people safe and away from unnecessary hospital visits.
SofiHub is powered by Artificial Intelligence. This gives it the ability to prevent false positives (unnecessary alarms) and become more accurate over time in identifying problems (a change in people’s behaviour).
SofiHub comes out of research at Deakin University, has been trialled in Geelong and will be available to the public in July 2017
Staying in touch with family is what counts
Caroline Lee, a retired nurse and the founder of Leecare Solutions believes that Aged Care is a place for people who are passionate about older people and can also survive on low budgets.
She pointed out that there was minimal technology in the Aged Care sector until 2010. Software vendors only took an interest when governments began to invest money, after years of lobbying by community groups.
The company creates and maintains software programs that cover clinical care, administrative and financial areas. Their programs can be broken up into seperate modules or linked together in a complete package.
The company has survived for seventeen years by keeping their costs down, solving their customers problems and being flexible. Their packages are device independent and can run on both local networks and the cloud.
They have an app to view their software, their dashboards are clean looking and data is easy to find.
Caroline knows that Aged Care will not make ambitious startup CEO’s millionaires in five years. But she loves her work. Her company runs software in 650 facilities across Australia and New Zealand.
After woods a general discussion took place co ordinated by Marc Neims, the founder of HealthXN. The main points raised were:
- Aged Care staff want technology that is easy to use, and is relevant to the clinical world of caring for people.
- Technology needs to be constantly updated, to keep pace with changing technology and short term government policies.
- Startups interested in Aged Care need to stay in touch with their customers, and focus on giving them what they actually need.
- The Aged Care sector needs to grow and adapt organically, rather then be ‘smashed up’ or ‘disrupted’.
- The future is integrating Aged Care facilities into the community, using flexible building designs and non invasive but smart technology.