The government of Japan expects a shortage of 370,000 caregivers for the elderly by 2025, and is will look to robots to help provide care in institutions and at home.
Robots can transfer patients who are unable to move themselves from bed to a wheelchair, or to a bath, for example.
A new robot named Named RIBA (Robot for Interactive Body Assistance) has been developed by RIKEN and Tokai Rubber Industries (TRI). Using the latest sensor, control, information processing, mechanical and materials technology, it is the first of its kind in the world. So far, RIBA can safely lift and move a human patient of up to 61 kg (around 135 lb.).
RIBA’s arms have high-precision tactile sensors and its human-like body has a soft exterior of urethane foam, for patient safety and comfort. Having robots do the lifting will ease the burden on staff, reduce injuries to health care workers, and help patients who want to live at home.
Another use of robot tech is a walking aid that can give a boost when the person is walking uphill and a braking action going down hills. The robot prevents falls and helps the user carry loads safely.
There are monitor systems that collect information aimed at improving nursing care services, and robots that can detect when a patient falls down or needs help. For example, robots are being developed that can predict when a person needs to go to the toilet and guide them there at the right time, helping them with removing clothing and other necessary motions.
In addition to their uses in nursing homes, robots can contribute to self-reliance for people who have some disabilities but want to remain at home.
The Japanese government wants patients to get used to robot helpers, hoping that by 2020, 80% of patients will accept having some of their care provided by robots. Several Japanese government agencies want to encourage businesses to develop care robots, and popularize them.
The RIKEN-TRI Collaborative Center for Human-Interactive Robot Research (RTC), where RIBA was developed, expects to bring care robots to market in the near future.
Priority Areas to Which Robot Technology is to be Introduced in Nursing Care – get information at METI.
For more information on long term care issues, see the Guide To Long Term Care,