At the recent International Carers Conference in Adelaide there was a strong focus on devices and technology that offered users greater independence and in turn less reliance on care from others. The potential for machines and artificial intelligence to complete routine tasks, monitor our behaviour and provide accurate accounts for health care professionals is mind boggling. Effective use of this technology suggests that informal carers would have more time available for their own needs be they personal, work or other interests. In presenting the technology and applications that will free up the time spent providing care, there seemed to be one important aspect that was not discussed.
What happens to the care partnership?
The time spent talking with someone whilst helping them make their bed or asking about their day as you prepare dinner together. Talking about the news headlines as the kettle boils or simply holding their hand and letting someone know you’re there when times are tough. These moments are a special part of the caring relationship for both the carer and the person care is being provided for.
Interactions like those mentioned above along with many more similar ones throughout the day are especially important for men who express their love and care by doing ‘things’. It’s no secret that men will often keep their thoughts and emotions under wraps but demonstrate how much they care by their actions. Taking away the opportunity for men to communicate in this way could result in feelings of loss and worthlessness for those men.
We live in a time where digital solutions have changed the way we live, communicate and learn. Technology makes things different, not better not worse but different. There are many exhausted, time poor carers who would benefit from using assistive technology and it truly does offer some great options but the impact of losing aspects of the personal care relationship needs to be considered more.
Large parts of my caring role and similarly with many other carers I meet, is the emotional support. The care relationship or partnership provides a sense of safety, reliability, honesty and love which is shared throughout each and every day.
Technology can’t replace the love and understanding of someone who cares.
I am in favour of technology making lives easier but hope that managing that change in the context of care relationships is part of the discussion.