Good mental health is a crucial factor associated with healthy ageing, and this is determined by a combination of psychological, biological and/or social and cultural factors. While the prevalence of mental health issues tends to decrease with age, our older population is at a higher risk. This includes elderly people in hospital, supported accommodation, people with dementia, those living at home and aged care workers.
According to Mental Health Australia, “45% of newly admitted aged care residents have symptoms of depression, as do 52% of all aged care permanent residents.” And this study has shown that the current arrangements for treating mental health conditions in aged care are inadequate.
And as the COVID-19 pandemic troubles nations worldwide, it has reduced our usual daily activities, especially for the elderly who live in aged care facilities who have had minimal contact with families and friends in order to decrease risk of infection. This has resulted in increased social isolation and loneliness for our elderly population.
For a sector already beset with staffing, resources, qualifications and budget limitations, the pandemic has had the most significant impact. Others describe it as an “aged care crisis” that was also facing challenges in mental health even before the pandemic.
Emerging Technologies to Help Mental Health in Aged Care
The pandemic has increased demand for technological advancements across all sectors, and in regards to aged care, it has increased the need for smart administrative technologies, such as automation, enhanced digital communication with patients and care tracking.
As the sector continues developing its systems, several emerging digital health solutions aim to improve access to mental health services and encourage digital communications and interactions even though we’re far apart.
Here are some of the emerging technologies worldwide that are helping the aged care industry fight mental health problems.
Online Social Inclusion
Many factors contribute to the feeling of loneliness and isolation. The absence of accessible transportation, mobility and hearing impairments, losing a loved one, little to no communication with family or the lack of opportunities to engage with others and participate in the community. However, technology has also innovated to increase community engagement with elderly Australians in aged care residences and facilities to ensure safety and lessen their physical health risks.
Using smart technology, like CareVision’s Smart TV, residents can participate in virtual community events, join social groups and get the latest news and updates in the community by just navigating through the television or easy-to-use tablet applications. Several providers have used technology to maintain vibrant communities for their residents.
Smart Technology for Communications
The sector has been tackling issues of social isolation in aged care facilities for a long time. A lot of projects and researchers have aimed to create AI-driven technology to help alleviate loneliness for the elderly.
“We envision a device that’s emotionally intelligent, where an elderly person can say ‘I’m tired’ or ‘It’s beautiful outside,’ or tell a story about their day—and receive a response that carries on the conversation and keeps them engaged,” said Osmar Zaïane, co-author of the study and scientific director of the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute.
And as we progress to a “new normal”, aged care providers are improving their facilities by installing interactive software that allows residents to communicate with their loved ones, join virtual tours or watch live stream concerts in the comforts of their own space.
With Smart TVs, Mobile applications, and Smart speakers, residents can contact their family and friends to organise virtual events or family gatherings! This technology has created more ways to keep them active and connected, which lessens mental stress for elderly Australians.
Virtual Clinics/Online Consultation
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Australians were more accustomed to face-to-face doctor’s consultation, while telehealth focused on providing care for remote locations where workers cannot travel. But because of the pandemic, many aged care facilities have shifted to telehealth solutions such as virtual health consultations for their residents.
Virtual healthcare refers to the “virtual doctor’s consultation or clinics” where people needing care can communicate via technology — through video conferencing. Digital tools now serve as one of the core elements in providing service to residents and their families by connecting them to healthcare professionals in a safe environment, and even in the comfort of their own home.
We never want to be bored! Digital technology has made it easy to keep elderly populations more entertained by giving them access to video games and digital brain training games such as solitaire, puzzles and community trivia to keep their minds active! This technology also enables residents to watch aged care specific content such as exercise sessions, movies and other channels to entertain them.
Besides keeping them busy with games, it can improve their cognitive simulation. These games refresh the brain by activating our memory and problem-solving skills which are also good for their well-being as they can stimulate thoughts of happiness and positive memories.
Booking Support Services
There are many older Australians who need services and assistance from care workers in their day-to-day activities. And as aged care providers, it is essential to give them the best ways to reach out to workers they need by adopting the latest management systems to ease their daily lives. By giving them options to quickly request or book services through the available digital devices in their homes.
This support services digital solution also empowers your residents to be independent in managing their own care, choosing their preferred services, and the preferred workers. It also supports home-care development for an ageing population by improving remote monitoring and provides full accessibility to care teams to schedule, document and track the care of their patients living at home.
It is extremely important for the elderly to take care of their mental health and keep a physically healthy lifestyle. With the help of technology, older Australians have more options to do mind-healthy activities every day, even in their own homes. Whether it’s completing a crossword puzzle each morning on their tables, chatting with their family and friends or simply participating in online community events, technology can assist in increasing overall quality of life and enhanced mental health.
If you are looking for more ways to keep your residents active, CareVision is here to help you set up the best digital space for your aged care facility, including products for care workers, care administrators, aged care residents, elderly living at home and their families. Book a free demo or contact us at 1300 324 070 today.