Will You Have 'Rosie' the Robot As Your Home Care Provider?

Recent news stories claim by the year 2045 over half of jobs will be performed by robots. Rice University Professor Moshe Vardi, speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said, “If machines are capable of doing almost any work humans can do, what will humans do?"

Sound like science fiction? Maybe you remember ‘Rosie’ the maid. She was the humanoid robot fictional character in ‘The Jetsons’ cartoon. Maybe you saw ‘Robot & Frank’. It was a science fiction comedy-drama film released in 2012. Set in the near future, it focuses on an aging jewel thief whose son buys him a domestic homecare robot. Resistant at first, Frank warms up to the robot when he realizes he can use it to restart his career as a cat burglar.

Comedy. Science fiction. Well wait just a moment. Valerie VanBooven, RN BSN, Editor in Chief of HomeCareDaily.com, writes in a recent column that robotics have been playing an increasing role in home health care.

“Automatic devices have been making life easier for those with the financial means to afford them. Now it’s expected that this market will quadruple by 2025 and it will include benefits for the in home care industry as well, “she writes.

Greg Nichols in ZDNet Blog writes, ““The days of unconnected consumer robotics products are numbered,” says Philip Solis, Research Director at ABI Research. “Wi-Fi is rapidly becoming standard technology in home care robots, beginning with floor cleaners. Today, wireless connectivity merely allows robot systems to be controlled and monitored remotely, but looking forward, their connectivity, mobility, sensors, and functionality, such as machine vision, will expand their capabilities as part of the smart home.”

We already see common use of robotics in medicine. Surgical and interventional robots are common place in major hospitals in the U.S. and around the world.

In Japan, where an aging population is creating challenges in the healthcare industry and burdens on families, Toyota and Honda have started building robots which can perform many types of nursing services.

This is not some futuristic fantasy it is today.

“There will be a growing need for Long Term Care in the United States as 76 million baby boomers reach old age,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Long Term Care Insurance.  “There will be a huge demand for care and a shortage of caregivers.”

While robotics may cost less than their human counterpart they will not replace them totally. Neither robots or humans are free. With so many people requiring Long Term Health Care (the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says 70% of those who reach the age of 65 will need some type of Long Term Care (LTC) service before they die) these LTC services will eat retirement savings and impact a family’s lifestyle.

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“Many of these tasks are currently being performed by home care aides, home health care providers, and in some cases family members. A major concern is the physical toll it can have on these men and women offering that level of physical support,” VanBooven says.

She writes that the robot can reduce the burdens placed on human caregivers and family members. She adds injuries become more likely when a home health aide or family member attempts to do heavy lifting many times without proper support or even training.

“It’s not expected that this boom in robotics technology for in home care will replace home care aides or the need for them, but rather offer another level of physical assistance to help make life easier for seniors and disabled adults for whom some of these daily tasks become too difficult or even impossible to do on their own,” VanBooven added.

Personal funds will still be required to pay for these home healthcare robots as custodial extended care services are not paid for by health insurance or Medicare. Medicaid, the medical welfare program, will pay for LTC services only if a person is poor or spends down assets.

Long Term Care Insurance will, in many cases, pay for these future robots. Many policies have ‘alternative care’ provisions which can pay for these type of services. Some plans have cash benefits which can also be used to pay for your future robot.

“In either case planning to safeguard your future retirement savings is essential. Affordable Long Term Care Insurance can provide the resources to deal with the financial costs and burdens of aging. Many people start planning when they are younger as they continue to fund their 401(k)’s at work to protect those assets and make sure they will never burden their family,” said Matt McCann, a well-known specialist in LTC planning.

The future is here and maybe you will have your own personal robot.