Duncan McRae House

129 South US 221 Mt Vernon, GA 30445
(912)-583-2020   -   info@DuncanMcRaeHouse.com

Duncan McRae House

I truly believe that we live in a period of great transformation, and that people must challenge themselves to think boldly when it comes to innovation. Hence, the innovation opportunity comes from “thinking big.”

So let’s think about the scope of the problem. We all know that in Western nations and mature Asian countries, the seniors care challenge is massive. And with longer life expectancy, we are dealing with a reality in which the challenge of Alzheimer’s care for these seniors will go on for much longer periods of time.

Consider the reality:clip_image002

  • in the US, the number of Alzheimer’s patients is set to triple to 16 million by 2050
  • the typical Alzheimer patient is disabled for 9 to 20 years – and this will increase to 40- to 50 years as medical advances continue and life expectancy continues to grow
  • we are spending $172 billion a year in treatment – and that is set to grow to $1.08 trillion by 2050 given the growth in the number of cases, and the impact of longevity
  • there is a lot of family care giving that is involved; as the St. Louis Dispatch noted, “Boomers may be spending more years caring for an aging parent than a child
  • and the challenge shows no end in sight: “40% of people over the age of 80 are suffering from dementia – there will be a million new cases a year by 2050

Put these facts into the context of the reality of what is occurring in the world of senior care today:

  • an ongoing massive ramp-up in demand with shortfall in available and planned units
  • a funding crisis with plunging investment / housing values, and state, federal and municipal tax deficits
  • ongoing skills and staffing issues
  • increasing scrutiny in public eye
  • heightened expectations on quality of service from the boomer generation

That’s why one of the first points I emphasized is what I often do in my keynotes: “World class innovators aren’t afraid of thinking boldly!” Simply put, we have a huge problem, and society and government needs some pretty bold thinking when it comes to solutions. How is society going to care for, in a respectful way, an increasing number of seniors living with a very complex disease? How can we help the caregivers to give better care?

Which brings me to the Paro therapeutic robot ago, a Japanese robot manufacturer introduced Paro to the world. Built to resemble a baby harp seal—with a plush coat of antibacterial fur—Paro was hailed in Japan as a pioneer among socially interactive robots, one that would help lift the spirits of millions of elderly adults.

It never quite caught on. “It doesn’t do much other than utter weird sounds like ‘heeee’ or ‘huuuu,’” says Tomoko Iimura, whose adult day-care center in Tsukuba City keeps its Paro in a closet.

Now Paro has come to American shores, appearing in a handful of nursing homes and causing a stir in a way that fake seal pups rarely do.

My first reaction was, “that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.” I was thinking in the context of what my wife was going through; dealing with someone with Alzheimer’s involves a tremendous amount of love, care, time, and emotional commitment.

How, in my mind, could a fake pet ever provide a level of care that would equate to that offered by a loving family member?

And at that point, I had to check myself — after all, I always challenge people to avoid reacting to new ideas with such phrases.

So let’s think about the Paro therapeutic robot. It was approved by the FDA as a medical device.

“Powering it are two 32-bit processors, three microphones, 12 tactile sensors covering most of its fur, touch-sensitive whiskers and a system of motors that silently move its parts. They allow Paro to recognize voices, track motion and “remember” behaviors that elicit positive responses from patients”

"It’s Not a Stuffed Animal, It’s a $6,000 Medical Device; Paro the Robo-Seal Aims to Comfort Elderly, but Is It Ethical?" – Wall Street Journal

The more I thought about it, I realized that I was probably guilty of the same anti-innovation attitudes that I often talk to my clients about. Who am I to say that such a device might not play a role in helping to provide for bold, transformative solutions to a challenge that is massive in scope? Maybe I’m guilty of the same type of innovation-blockers’s .

Read further into the article, and you come across this:

One recent morning, staff at Marian Manor in Pittsburgh, one of Vincentian Collaborative’s homes, circulated three Paros among residents gathered for a sing-a-long. As 77-year-old Anita Biro sat down at a table, she berated two fellow residents and told them to leave, recalls Beth Kuenzi, activities manager for the home’s dementia unit.

But when Ms. Kuenzi put Paro in front of Ms. Biro, her mood changed. As Ms. Biro stroked the robot’s synthetic fur, the machine batted its eyelashes and tracked movement with its head and eyes.

“I love this baby,” Ms. Biro cooed.

Aides also take Paro to residents’ rooms to get them to socialize. At another Vincentian home, Lois Simmeth, 73, doesn’t always participate in group activities, but she ventures into the hall when she hears Paro’s sounds.

“I love animals,” explains Ms. Simmeth. She whispered to the robot in her lap: “I know you’re not real, but somehow, I don’t know, I love you.”

Five years out? 10? 15? Who knows what type of bold, innovative solutions we might see emerging that could help family members who are in a caregiving situation, or which might help to alleviate the huge burden of care within assisted living facilities?

Come visit The Duncan McRae House Assisted Living Facility in Mt. Vernon, Ga sometime! It’s beautiful here!

Happy Holidays!

This entry was posted on Sunday, December 25th, 2011 at 7:02 pm and is filed under assisted living, elderly care. You can leave a comment and follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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