The care sector is especially affected by demographic change, both in nursing homes and in hospitals. Whereas the number of people in need of care continues to rise, fewer and fewer people entering the employment market are opting to work as care givers. At the same time, older members of the profession are retiring early on account of the high physical and psychological demands of the job. According to a study published in "Der Spiegel" entitled "Which jobs make you ill", the average care giver is off sick for 25 days each year – the third-highest figure among all the occupations covered.
Service robot technologies enable common care aids to be implemented more effectively and ergonomically, therefore making life easier for members of staff as they work. This lowers the number of non-care tasks care givers have to perform and gives them more time to spend on actual care. Also, these advanced care aids can be used to reduce health risks, thus making the job of a care giver more attractive.
Expertise and sample projects
As part of the WiMi-Care project, a comprehensive requirements analysis of a nursing home was made at Fraunhofer IPA and potential service robot applications identified. On the basis of existing robot platforms, scenarios for automated transport, staff support during night shifts, serving residents drinks and for using robots as an entertainment and interactive platform were also implemented.
The aim of the EFFIROB study was to analyze the technical and economic feasibility of new service robot applications. Within the context of residential care, three new scenarios were developed: a versatile transport robot, a partially-autonomous care trolley and a partially-autonomous multi-functional hoist. A prototype of the latter was constructed in the course of the Elevon project. The project SeRoDi concentrates on its further development as well as the product-related implementation of an intelligent care cart and its inclusion in the relevant care process. Initial long-term tests are also being carried out in residential care institutions for the sick and elderly.
Fraunhofer IPA offers support throughout the entire development of new service robot solutions for improving in-patient care – from the concept to prototype construction. A particular focus is on: