Caring for elderly usingg tech needs a ‘code of conduct’
In Issue 513 (News, page 7) you ask for readers’ views on how technology should be used to help elderly people requiring social care. It’s a vital question, and I’m glad that my favourite magazine is raising it.
The most important point I want to make is that we shouldn’t dismiss technology as simply cost-cutting. Your news story suggests that Essex County Council is using Skype rather than face-to-face visits as a way to save money. I don’t know whether that’s the case, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. We all know how expensive it is to care for our ageing population, so spending money wisely is imperative. Also, think of the time a care worker could save by contacting patients on video, rather than driving to their house.
There’s a crucial ‘but’, though. The amount of person-to-person time that patients receive mustn’t drop. There’s no point saving time and money if patients feel more lonely as a result, which in the long-term will end up costing us more in dealing with conditions like dementia. As charities always say, research shows that loneliness is a silent killer. Elderly people often don’t like to complain about feeling lonely and depressed because they don’t want to make a fuss.
It’s clear that more and more councils will try technological solutions to social-care problems, and they are right to do so. But they must recognise the anxiety of patients and their relatives. Perhaps they should come together to work on a ‘code of conduct’ guaranteeing that in the rush to use gadgets, the dignity of patients won’t get overlooked. I’m sure it would be welcomed by society.