How can technology reduce social isolation and increase the quality of life for people living in nursing homes?
Digital solutions for social contact with relatives and friends is a topic made especially relevant during the covid pandemic. The nursing homes have strict rules for visitors to ensure infection control. This summer, the first part of the RoboCare project was carried out in a closed ward for people with dementia and reduced cognitive abilities. The robot called Berntsen was used as a digital tool for contact between people living in the nursing home and their next of kin.
The first part of the project was carried out in a closed ward of the nursing home, and now we have just started the second part of the project in a short-term ward, says Karoline Blikra Mokleiv.
She works for Norwegian Smart Care Lab. Blikra Mokleiv is responsible for the technical part of the project, and to teach the workers at the nursing home, the patient and next of kin how to use the robot Berntsen.
I have learned a lot from working with the employees that have extra responsibility to carry out the project in the nursing home. These super users make sure that Berntsen is used in a correct way and have close communication with the patients and their relatives. The patients next of kin have been very engaged in the project, and they have done a great job to make sure the project is implemented in a good way. Not to forget the patients, who wants to participate in the project and test new technology, says Blikra Mokleiv about the project.
She sees big value in gathering information about solutions like the robot Berntsen. Information that can be very useful during a state of emergency. The value given to the patients, next of kin and employees is valuable information for further work in the Norwegian Smart Care Cluster and Lab.
Social contact through technology
The project is financed by the DAM-foundation and started in June 2020. The background for the project is the covid pandemic and restrictions for visitors in nursing homes, which has large consequences for elderly patients. Some of the patients lack ability to use technology to stay in touch with their family and friends. The purpose of this project is to investigate how digital solutions like Berntsen can aid to this challenge.
We are looking in to how the tool is used, experiences and how it can help patients have more contact with family and friends. This is the first time the robot Berntsen is used in a ward were the patients have dementia and reduced cognitive abilities. This will give us useful information about a new group of users, says Blikra Mokleiv.
In the first part of this project, the employees had to be an active participant together with the patients when using the robot due to the patients reduced cognitive abilities. The planning of the project went over two months, and the project group consisted of Norwegian Smart Care Lab, Tasta nursing home, the solution provider Innocom and SESAM.
– There is not much research in this area. That is why knowledge about how the robot Berntsen can assist in a nursing home, and what kind of patients will benefit from using this type of technology, is important. It is also important to understand how the solution can help the collaboration between patients, staff and next of kin, says Ingelin Testad, professor and department leader at SESAM.
Structure with Berntsen
So far it has been amazing to have Karoline from Norwegian Smart Care Lab helping me out with all the practical work in Stavanger, says Hege Eiklid, CEO in Innocom. They have developed the solution Berntsen.
The covid pandemic has led to restrictions and limited Eiklid’s abilities to travel. Close collaboration with the Lab has been necessary.
In my experience it is important to be physically present during the implementation phase, to make small technical adjustments. There might be challenges that has nothing to do with the robot, for example the internet connection. If the technology around the robot proves to be challenging, the users will not get the right impression of Berntsen, Eiklid explains.
With the changes in society due to covid pandemic Eiklid sees several benefits with Berntsen.
Berntsen can offer a total package of communication, activities, and structure to everyday life. She gets a lot of compliments from the users, saying that the robot is very easy and user friendly, says Eiklid.
Thoughts form the nursing home
This group of patients is overlooked. It can be lack of understanding in the society that causes this, or it might be because these patients spend the last part of their lives in a closed ward. It is like they “disappear” from society before they die. But they still need contact with the outside world, they need to do meaningful and interesting things, they need support and encouragement. They still need to be seen, and to be respected for the person they used to be. Therefore, it is good to try out Berntsen for communication. With Berntsen, the patient sees a video of the person they talk to and it enables relatives to support and give comfort when needed. The patient’s short-term memory gets worse and worse, so it is important that they maintain contact with their family before they forget them. The strict rules for visiting makes this a good time to test out new digital solutions, says Ingebjørg Jordbrekk, department leader at Tasta nursing home.
Facts about the projects
Project name: RoboCare
Goal for the project: To research how the digital aid Berntsen can contribute to better contact between people living in nursing homes and their next of kin.
Project start: June 2020
Financing: The DAM-foundtation
Project group: SESAM, Norwegian Smart Care Lab, Tasta nursing home and Innocom.
Facts about the solution Berntsen
Berntsen gives the user structure in everyday life.
It can remind the patient about activities and automatically play personal training videos. Berntsen makes it is easy for the patient to start up with video conversations and training.
The Berntsen activation robot intents to help its end users master daily activities and maintain the level of function so that they have a good quality of life.
Picture name: Test_Tasta-sykehjem_Berntsen_6_web text for picture: ACTIVE PATICIPANTS: In the first part of this project, the employees had to be an active participant together with the patients when using the robot due to the patients reduced cognitive abilities. (Photo: Jofrid Åsland, NSCC) Picture name: Test_Tasta-sykehjem_Berntsen_3_web text for picture: EASY: Users describes the robot Berntsen as