Inquiry hears tech helps elderly, families

Megan Neil
1 / 2

AGED CARE ROYAL COMMISSION

The aged care royal commission is taking evidence from elderly people via videolink due to COVID-19

A virtual social centre for seniors has opened up Barbara Hamilton Ramsay's world.

The Gold Coast woman was lonely and admittedly not technologically savvy before she started using a tablet to access a program that lets her dabble in activities like art, tai chi and healthy cooking.

"I love it," Ms Hamilton Ramsay told the aged care royal commission on Monday, in its first hearing without members of the public present due to coronavirus concerns.

"Sometimes it gives me a reason to get out of bed.

"I've been quite lonely. It's lovely to have someone call you by your name in the morning."

Ms Hamilton Ramsay said the virtual social centre, run by aged care provider Feros Care, has helped with her depression and demeanour.

She also learnt how to do her banking on her mobile phone.

"It makes me feel a bit competent because that's something else you lose with old age - you feel inadequate quite a bit."

Technology has also given Damien Harker the peace of mind that his 89-year-old father George, who has dementia, is OK in his Adelaide home.

Mr Harker said it was unsettling after his father left his home a couple of times, to be picked up by police or paramedics.

"We were constantly worrying after that point. It was just not knowing what was actually going on in his home environment."

Mr Harker and his brother can now check their father's activity through an app that uses sensors around the home, as part of his home care package provided by ECH.

"It has just provided so much assistance to us and peace of mind that we feel we can better manage dad's health care."

Experts told the royal commission technology can help improve the quality of aged care and quality of life for elderly people, although there were limitations particularly for those with dementia.

"The technology can only say so much," Dementia Australia's Dr Tanya Petrovich said.

"It can tell us where they've been but it doesn't tell us have they taken their medication, have they actually had a meal, have they actually met all their requirements that day."

There also needed to be other supports to help people stay at home, Dr Petrovich said.

"It doesn't take away from the need for genuine human-to-human care."

Ms Hamilton Ramsay and Mr Harker gave their evidence via videolink rather than in person at the Adelaide hearing, as part of measures implemented in response to the coronavirus outbreak.