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Caroline Bergmann

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When care is tight: robots can help

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The number of people in need of long-term care in Germany is increasing. At the same time there are acute personnel and financial bottlenecks in the nursing care sector. This is how the German Ethics Council describes the situation in Germany even before the crisis. Could robots in nursing be the solution?

When care is tight: robots can help

Robotics can contribute to improving the quality of life of people in need of care. But it is important that the new technology must not replace interpersonal relationships. 

In industry today, robots are already working hand in hand with their human colleagues: In the automotive industry, for example, robots place thousands of welding spots with millimetre precision until the car body is finished. In manufacturing, robots accompany parts on the assembly line along the entire production chain. What works in industry could also bring relief in the care sector.

Working with a Cobot - a collaborative robot - in the care sector is often looked at with scepticism. The magic word for good cooperation is "acceptance". According to the German Ethics Council, robotics "makes a valuable contribution to improving the quality of life of people in need of care and the quality of work in the care sector.” What is important here is that the new technology is used responsibly. The use of robots must not replace interpersonal relationships.

Helpful droids in a retirement home

With the main aim of creating more time and space for human relations in nursing, the Ethics Council sees various possible applications for the "new colleague". On the one hand, he or she can relieve nursing staff of physically demanding activities. On the other hand, it can also support people who still live at home. In order to enable them to lead a self-determined life in their home environment, monitoring techniques could be used to remotely monitor bodily functions such as pulse, sugar levels or blood pressure using sensors. In an emergency the robot would ensure that help was called for as quickly as possible.

The Seniorenförderclub Berlin is working on such a prototype. Together with partners such as the Fraunhofer Institute, the Technical University in Wildau and also the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, it is working on its own solution. The aim is to support senior citizens at home and nursing staff in retirement homes and hospitals by means of a robot. The demands on the "technical nurse" are many and varied: “she” should be able to perform night watch independently and recognize if a person needs help. In addition, the robot should help with time-consuming administration or remind nursing staff of important appointments or break times. In contact with the seniors, the robot is supposed to be friendly in seeking conversation. It provides information about the weather, current news or the current television program. On its display it also offers games as well as sports, relaxation and movement exercises.

For this innovative solution, the Seniorenförderclub received the Digital Champions Award “Region East” in the category "Digital Transformation Mittelstand”. The award is presented jointly by WirtschaftsWoche and Telekom.

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