Robot Caregivers: Should Machines Look After Our Loved Ones?

November 26, 2014 Our Blog
Robot CaregiversRobot Caregivers: Should Machines Look After Our Loved Ones?

Dr. Louise Aronson joins guest host Stephen Quinn to make the case for embracing robot caregivers. Aronson — an associate professor of geriatrics at the University of California, San Francisco — argues that robots can not only help with tedious, dirty and dangerous daily tasks, but also provide supplementary care to help combat loneliness and isolation.

Although Aronson does not believe robot caregiving should replace human interaction altogether, she proposes that interacting with an ever-accommodating robot can be a positive experience for the elderly, especially for dementia patients who may not be able to tell the difference.
As an example, Aronson refers to a patient she knows with dementia who asks the same question multiple times a day, often frustrating her family caregiver.
“If the robot could be there to reassuringly answer the question with the endless patience of a non-person, of someone who doesn’t care that they’ve been asked it before — if that person could, with compassion, with a nice tone of voice, repeat the answer over and over so the person is constantly reassured […] I think that would be a huge asset for the psychological well-being and consequently physical well-being of both the person who needed help and that person’s caregiver,” she says.
Robots don’t blush in the bathroom
Aronson also notes that robots may be preferable during those intimate moments in the washroom when patients can find it “demoralizing and even humiliating” to rely on a loved one or stranger.
“This is one of the most common examples I get of ‘if I had a robot who could help me with that, I could then be independent and preserve my dignity,’” Aronson tells Stephen.
Aronson doesn’t see robot help as a crutch to make up for not having human care, but as extra support for both the patient and their caregiver.

“If we are unable, as we currently are, to provide 24/7 companionship for all those people, and we have some machines that improve the quality of life for that older adult, then I don’t think that’s such a bad thing,” she says.

“I think the false dichotomy is that the robot replaces the human.”