Is Artificial Intelligence Revolutionizing Senior Care?

Q. I read somewhere that nine out of 10 seniors would prefer to age in their homes for as long as possible. But isn’t there a shortage of health care professionals and caregivers to provide the care that would be needed for this many people to age in place? Could robotics and artificial intelligence help solve this disconnect?

A. America is definitely facing a caregiver crisis, with too few caregivers to help our nation’s seniors age in place which, as you pointed out, is what about 90 percent of seniors desire. There is also a shortage of health care professionals such as doctors and nurses, especially ones who are willing to make home visits for homebound seniors who lack the mobility to travel to medical appointments. Artificial intelligence, especially coupled with robotics, is becoming more popular in health care in areas such as early detection and diagnosis, warding off loneliness, and improving care management. Will AI be what causes a shift in the way society cares for seniors, and if not yet, is this something we will experience in the future? Devices and automated systems powered by artificial intelligence (AI) are stepping in in a big way. Some new technology has shown to help keep patients safe, free human caregivers from certain tasks, allow seniors to continue living in their own homes for longer, and even help reduce some of the costs of care.

AI refers to computer systems that do things that normally require human intelligence. AI is widely used to identify someone based on their face. AI can also be used to power virtual companions and to determine whether someone is at a high risk for disease. AI can automate tasks, gather insights from datasets, and complement human expertise. When it comes to senior care, there are several forms of specialized AI that have already been rolled out in the caregiving industry. Let’s look at a few: 

Virtual Home Assistants/AI Robots 

Virtual Home Assistants allow some seniors to continue living independently without the need to constantly be connected with human caregivers. This autonomy keeps medical costs relatively low compared to if the patient had in-home care. Here are a few examples: 

  • ElliQ is a robot designed by Intuition Robotics as a daily sidekick. Without requiring much technology expertise to set up, ElliQ helps seniors remain independent and stay immersed in the world around them. The robot does this by interacting with seniors to keep them mentally active through videos, games, news, trivia, and more. It allows seniors to stay connected with their family and friends through video calling, and it reminds seniors to take prescriptions and to drink water. 
  • Another example is the Mabu robot from Catalia Health. Mabu is a bit different from ElliQ in that it allows users to seek advice or to record health-related issues from apps, through text messaging or other interfaces while on the go. This option is also user-friendly for those who may not be the most tech-savvy. Mabu uses AI to deliver an individually tailored conversation to patients because they understand that every patient’s needs are unique to the user. 

Communication and Companionship 

According to the Pew Research Center, 27 percent of seniors over the age of 65 live alone, and many of these seniors struggle with loneliness. Social isolation and loneliness can lead to other issues, such as depression and anxiety, along with a worsening of physical health issues. In fact, the American College of Cardiology reports that those who are socially isolated or dealing with loneliness tend to see a higher rate of heart failure than those who have a thriving social life. Let’s look at some AI technology that can help with communication and companionship: 

  • For seniors who love living alone but have moments when they really wish they had someone to talk to, ChatGPT and other artificial intelligence large language models (LLMs) such as Bard from Google and Bing Chat can sometimes fill that void. These LLMs are always there to answer questions or engage in conversation; the more you talk to one, the more it learns about who you are, and the better it becomes at responding in ways that suit you.  
  • Smart home hubs such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home and connected smart home devices have become more and more common over the last several years — these can be used in dozens of ways to help seniors in their homes. For instance, they can be programmed to: alert you to severe weather; help you stay connected on social media; remind you of medical appointments, birthdays, and other events events; encourage you to achieve your daily goals for exercise; and help keep your brain sharp with puzzles, games, and more.  
  • A socially assistive AI-powered robot called Stevie was tested at a Washington, DC, nursing home from 2018 to 2020. Stevie entertained residents by telling jokes, playing bingo, and leading karaoke. It also provided reminiscence therapy using stories and music and could clean the facility with ultraviolet light. Recognizing commands like “help me,” the robot alerts staff when residents need assistance. 
  • Nadine, a robot powered by AI is a socially intelligent robot who is friendly, greets you back, makes eye contact, and remembers all the nice chats you had with her.  
  • Pepper, a humanoid robot funded by the Minnesota Department of Human Services, is similarly designed for socializing with residents. Able to recognize faces and read human emotions, Pepper is being introduced into nursing homes and other elder care facilities. 
  • Aeo, a robot created by Aeolus Robotics, interacts with residents socially. In addition to taking selfies with residents, it performs various essential functions, such as disinfecting surfaces, opening doors, pressing elevator buttons, and alerting staff when a resident has fallen or needs help. 
  • Paro, a robotic seal, gives patients the benefits of simulated pet therapy in health care settings and memory care facilities where bringing live animals would be impractical. Similar to live pet therapy, some individuals may find it easier to connect with robots than with people. 

Health Care 

The potential for both AI and robotics in health care is vast. AI applications encourage healthier behaviors in seniors and help with proactive management of a healthy lifestyle. AI can help put seniors who are aging in place in control of health and well-being. 

Additionally, AI can increase the ability for health care professionals to understand the day-to-day patterns and needs of their patients. With this added information, health care professionals are better able to provide meaningful feedback, guidance, and support for staying healthy. Let’s look at some examples of AI being used for health care purposes: 

  • Sensi.AI is a startup that has developed 24/7 audio-based AI software to detect and predict physical, cognitive, and emotional care-related anomalies that can impact the health and well-being of those receiving in-home care to prevent unwanted occurrences from happening. 
  • Together by Renee is a free iPhone app, built on Generative AI (which itself builds on existing AI technologies such as LLMs), designed to help aging adults and their caregivers manage medications and other health care tasks. Using a smartphone camera, the person simply snaps a picture of a prescription bottle. Together’s AI technology automatically detects key information about the medication and how it pertains to that specific patient. Using the photo of the prescription bottle, the app can detect the doctor’s name and contact information, the pharmacy the patient uses, the correct dosage of the medication, the date that refills are due, and any precautionary advice (e.g., if you can’t take it with grapefruit juice). The app was designed solely for guidance for patients and their caregivers, so they can share their data with whomever they want. 
  • Fujitsu is another company that is making waves with AI-based “Intelligent Care Solutions.” Fujitsu’s AI-based platform delivers audio analysis capabilities to detect the health status of patients. Their “Healthware Smart Sensing Platform” empowers medical experts to remotely monitor the health of their elderly patients, which reduces the need for in-person clinical visits. 
  • uses a smartphone camera and AI technology to analyze urine tests and chronic wounds to look for infection. It makes testing as easy as snapping a picture, and can help track healing and can help doctors make recommendations. 
  • Clip Health is a diagnostic platform that attaches to a smartphone. It can recognize bacteria, viruses, proteins, and hormones from bodily fluids. 

For more information on AI and other senior technology for aging in place, please read my other articles on the subject here. 

Seniors Will Continue to Use AI Technology to Help Them Age in Place 

As the US population continues to age, it’s clear that the overwhelming majority of seniors generally have a strong desire to age in place. As they experience the changes and challenges that come with aging, new technologies, including AI, are available to make most aspects of life easier. The AI technology described in this article will hopefully enable seniors to extend their time in their homes and make it as safe and easy as possible. 

When AI Is Not Enough to Make Aging in Place the Best Option 

If, despite the technology that is available, you or a loved one cannot live independently and are showing signs that living alone is a strain, it may be time to consider other alternatives. 

Whether the outcome is in-home care, assisted living, or nursing home care, it is always wise to plan ahead. Life Care Planning and Medicaid Asset Protection is the process of protecting assets from having to be entirely “spent down” in connection with receiving care at home, or going into assisted living or nursing home care, while helping ensure that you and your loved ones get the best possible care and maintain the highest possible quality of life. We are available whenever you’re ready to make an appointment: 

Northern Virginia Elder Law: 703-691-1888 
Fredericksburg Elder Law: 540-479-1435 
Rockville Elder Law: 301-519-8041 
Annapolis Elder Law: 410-216-0703 
DC Elder Law: 202-587-2797 

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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