In fifteen years, the percentage of the population 65 and older will more than double in the U.S. requiring a tenfold increase in care workers. A tall order, considering that the care industry sector is steadily shrinking, which may very well open up a market for robots to fill the void of caring for the elderly in the near future.
While many acknowledge robots are far from ready to even touch or handle a human being, some foresee a time not so far off when robots will play a supporting role in many nursing home or other care facilities. As digital companions or animatronic pets, these robots are designed to entertain, listen and console, leaving the heavy lifting of moving patients or administering meds to their human counterparts.
What seems oddly futuristic to some, is seen as an opportunity to increase productivity, profit and efficiency to others. However, the plan assumes that human interactions or bonding is not a big part of why someone goes into the care industry in the first place. By relegating human care workers to the mundane tasks of changing bedpans and giving shots while the robots have all the fun, the exodus of care workers may just be getting started. And what of the elderly? Will a metal hand of a robot suffice? The research is out on whether displacing social and physical contact onto machines is psychologically sound so it’s anyone’s guess, but the collective gut says no.
The coming demographic crisis is real and many baby boomers will need care in the absence of extended family or other caregivers sooner rather than later, so something has to give. If not the robot, then who? We’ve already seen how nursing home negligence and abuse can occur when nursing homes are understaffed, so perhaps the time has come to provide better pay and respect to attract care workers to the industry along with needed training and support to ensure the most vulnerable in our population are cared for.
If you or a family member has suffered neglect or abuse in an Iowa nursing home, contact the personal injury law offices of John T. Hemminger for help at 515-283-2116.
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