How Robots & AI Will Reduce the Cost of Elderly Care

09-09-2022 | By Robin Mitchell

Care homes for the elderly are notoriously expensive, challenging to manage, and damaging to families, but the rising capabilities of AI and robotics could soon help provide independence to those with mild dementia. What challenges does dementia introduce, how could AI and robotics help with elderly care, and could AI help democratise healthcare in general?

What challenges does dementia introduce?

People who live beyond the age of 80 and still have full cognitive abilities are extremely lucky, even if they require assistance in their daily lives, as they can still remember events of the past, form new memories, and recognise their loved ones. But for those who get dementia, it can be an extraordinarily challenging time. One of the more upsetting facts about dementia is that it can see those who suffer fail to recognise their own children (when my grandmother suffered from dementia in her later life, she once looked at my mother and said, “I have a daughter just like you”).

However, the physical attributes of dementia can make it extremely difficult to treat as patients with dementia are physically capable. This means that dementia patients who become stressed can become violent, and this puts both the patient and those nearby at risk of harm. The confusion brought by dementia also sees paranoia, making it difficult to administer treatment.

These challenges from dementia are typically in the later stages, but even early onset dementia presents dangers. Those with early onset dementia will often be very forgetful, resulting in missed medications and dangerous equipment being left on (such as ovens and gas burners). While these can be easily solved with the use of a carer, the extremely high cost of such care puts families in extremely difficult positions.

As such, families that have a relative with dementia will either have to resort to taking care of them (and thus putting strain on daily life) or have them move into a care home whereby the government takes every penny that they own.

How robots and AI will help elderly care

While those with severe dementia will require full-time care, the rise of robotics and AI presents numerous opportunities to provide independence for those with early onset dementia. 

To start, the use of AI-powered digital assistants can help provide reminders so that medication is taken correctly, that dangerous equipment is turned off, and to ensure that doctor’s appointments and other essential tasks are met. If combined with smart home technologies, a smart assistant can even monitor the house’s current status and provide frequent information updates such as potential fire risks, open doors, and running taps. 

The use of a smart assistant also eliminates the need for carers to make visits, thereby significantly reducing the cost of care. If smart assistants are too difficult to integrate, then a viable alternative is to install cameras, speakers, and microphones throughout the house that allows for real-time monitoring from a local care centre.

Integrating such technology also allows those with early onset dementia to have faster access to emergency services should something happen. Instead of remembering phone numbers (such as the IT Crowd emergency number 0118999881999119725...3), a smart assistant would easily respond to help commands and contact various numbers to ensure that help can be given. 

The addition of robotic systems can then provide an additional layer of independence. For example, robotic pets (such as dogs and cats) have been demonstrated to lower stress levels, but their robotic nature removes the need for those with dementia to take on additional responsibilities (such as vaccinations, feeding, and cleaning). Such robots also present the possibility of extending the reach of digital assistants to the owner’s side at all times.

Could AI help with democratising healthcare in general?

While the medical industry insists that healthcare is expensive, some back-of-the-envelope calculation raises serious doubts about care homes’ cost. Furthermore, the resistance facing diagnostic AI from doctors raises questions as to whether the medical field really does want the best for patients. 

If AI diagnostic systems could be developed, it would present humanity with a new era of medical care that has never been seen before. Instead of relying on overpaid GPs that do not provide nearly enough slots, individuals could access a medical AI any time of the day without waiting. Medical history can be passed to the medical AI while the patient is quizzed on their issues, and the diagnostic ability of the AI can help direct patients to specialists.

This initial diagnosis would help encourage people to see doctors on a daily basis, thereby catching potential issues before they become too difficult to solve. For example, some cancers detected early can be cheaper and easier to treat through surgery, but those that progress to later stages require the use of far more expensive treatments such as chemotherapy.

By using AI in elderly care, it is possible to extend the level of independence that sufferers have, and not only does this allow them to stay in environments they are comfortable with, but it also eases the pressure on families. 


By Robin Mitchell

Robin Mitchell is an electronic engineer who has been involved in electronics since the age of 13. After completing a BEng at the University of Warwick, Robin moved into the field of online content creation, developing articles, news pieces, and projects aimed at professionals and makers alike. Currently, Robin runs a small electronics business, MitchElectronics, which produces educational kits and resources.