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Robots, Human Connection, Anger and Human Decency

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Last week was a tough week in many ways and on many levels, so tough i actually tried for three or four days to write and found I was unable to, even though everything was in my head I could not get it onto paper, it was like being frozen, so things kept replaying in my head, it effected my sleep. Very little upsets or bothers me to that degree anymore but this week was different. Things effect me differently than they used to, many things have no real impact but things that do and they are generally something that makes me feel some type of emotion.

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I went to the store to pick up a few grocery items, I was standing in line with my few items, an elderly couple ( likely late 80’s were ahead of me, another lady about my age behind me, we were all wearing masks, we were all being respectful, we chatted, suddenly a middle aged man came at as yelling at the elderly couple, running into me, almost knocking me over, which ended up almost causing a fall for the woman behind me, he kept yelling at these people that they shouldn’t be in that line, he did not apologize for running into me, one of the workers saw this and went to open another till, she asked me to come to her line as I next, but the belligerent man was still yelling, so i said very clearly, perhaps you should take this rude man, because apparently he feels he is more important than the rest of us, and moving him along so he can be out of the store will allow the rest of us to finish or shopping without putting up with anymore of his belligerence. The elderly lady was crying her husband upset, the cashier upset, everyone in the line ups upset. I talked to the lady, she was apologizing, I assured her they had done nothing wrong and it was ok. The cashier got the man out, I told the lady behind me to go ahead of me, they all thanked me for speaking up. By the time I went through the tills I was left wondering what was happening to mankind. I know people say its because of covid, I believe that to be an excuse for many people, they somehow use that to give themselves permission to be mean, unkind. It shows peoples true colours, because covid or not you know exactly what you are doing when you behave in those ways. I then came home to read that one of the council members had put forward a motion to get rid of the people parked in town with their Rv’s. People are living this way out of necessity, not for most by choice, these are not people who are snow birds, these are people who cannot afford to live and pay rent so are trying to live the only way they can without ending up homeless. But people don’t want to look at them parked along the street, so let’s make them move, well where are they too move to. So I wrote in to suggest that instead of pushing them further into despair, we might try to find a location, to allow them to park and be safe for the coming time, perhaps then the people with the resources could assist to help lift them up would have an easier time getting to know them their story and what could be done to help them. Again I was deeply disturbed by how willing people are to discard others, as long as they don’t have to see it, like the human at the very core of it has no value. It makes me feel we are walking a very fine line as humans.

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This leads me to the most disturbing part of the week and it haunts me. I turned on the news something I rarely do anymore, and there was the the story about how the use of robots in long term care is somehow a good thing. So here are some of my thoughts on this. And let me be clear there is many many great people working in Long Term Care, who given a healthy work environment, a healthy life/work balance could do an even more phenomenal job than what they already do under dire circumstances.

While I am a strong advocate that technology has many important roles in our daily lives, in this instance, I have grave concerns about the impact of these robots not only on the residents but the staff as well.

When I first started out as a Care Aide I chose to work with seniors because I enjoyed the bond created between the residents and myself.  The staffing levels and nature of the job meant I had time to create a connection not only with the residents but their families as well.  I was happy to go to work because I felt I was making a positive impact on the lives of our seniors. 

Slowly, over the years,  this nursing career that so many were proud to be in was undermined by the desire to save money at the expense of the very people we were charged to look after.   The team work that had created a homelike environment became a thing of the past as permanent and full time positions were deemed too costly.  Casual workers meant that connections with family members and consistent care for their loved ones was no longer happening.   This resulted in barriers to family bonding with staff and lack of confidence in the care being given.

Staff were also impacted.  As the job became more task oriented they were unable to fulfill the reason they got into this line of work – to care for their patients.  Let me be clear here. This is not because staff didn’t want to care, it is because they no longer had the time to care.

The direct result of all of this is the staffing shortages we see today. Nursing is not a profession that many people want to go into or have the desire to stay in. Today, staff and families often view Long Term Care as hostile, uncaring and toxic.  The impact of this is felt daily by the residents. 

This brings me to my concerns about advocating for the use of robots to facilitate contact between residents and their family. 

We all know that this pandemic has highlighted the already fragile state of senior’s care in this country.  This on top of staff shortages, task oriented job mandates and lack of consistent care means that residents are already not getting enough human contact.  Using the robot in this way will just take away more of what little human interaction residents now receive; interaction which is well documented to be vital to the well being of those residents.  

Using robots to fill the gap from staff shortages does more harm than good.  It exacerbates the long time issue of putting Care back into Long Term Care.

If this robot technology is used in the way it is proposed it will give the policy makers a license to ignore the severe staffing needs and not enhance human interactions with the residents.  It will further encourage isolation and disconnect between the resident, the staff and the families.  

Perhaps a better use of this technology would be to create a system where nursing staff can, by voice, use the robots to do their charting/ paperwork that they are burdened with, instead of doing it manually.  The precious time saved could be better spent creating and maintaining human bonds. 

Human interaction is VITAL to life.

Other than those things it is a new week, I was so shook up by all these events I could not even write. This week, I am taking time out from a lot of things to focus on self care, my vocal abilities are really challenging right now and along with that the added piece of difficulty swallowing. Admittedly it is somewhat frightening wondering if this is going to settle into one of the new platforms from which I will operate for a time before the next step down in this process hits. So I’m mid week in another week and am looking forward with hope.

By WWW.Chrissy's

I am an advocate for people with dementia in Canada and globally, having been diagnosed with younger onset dementia myself a few years ago.

2 replies on “Robots, Human Connection, Anger and Human Decency”

You have hit the nail on the head. We need human assistance, care and love…not a robot that comes in gives water or whatever in the monotone voice..sis cutting and dehumanizing. We need someone to rank with, to love us, to actually give a s—t about us. Robots can service food, not feed, and pick up..they are not helpful in human needing human attention… NO WAY!!2

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