Why it pays off for elderly care homes to invest in social robots.

Sometimes we are confronted with statements that in the nursing sector money is in principle scarce and therefore no money can be earned. This is of course only partly true. Nursing care is very expensive for people in need of care and their families. The nursing care industry itself can make a good living from it, however.

Nursing care in Germany will have a turnover of around €50 billion in 2018; Roland Berger is forecasting a turnover of €85 billion by 2030. And Europe’s industry leader Korian achieved a remarkable EBITDA of 14.6% in 2019 with sales of €3.3 billion.

But why should nursing homes invest in (good) social robots? In fact, some nursing homes are struggling with bed occupancy. According to a study by D&S Healthcare, it fluctuates between 81% and 96%, which costs the owners a lot of money. One problem is the lack of skilled workers. The job is very demanding, so people do not do it for long. According to the DGW’s 2018 report, vacancies remain unfilled for an average of almost six months. On the other hand, some nursing homes are suffering from poor grades, which are made transparent to everyone by the AOK Care Navigator. Overburdened nursing staff cannot always give those in need of care the attention they need. Nursing quality thus becomes a transparent competitive factor.

And at the same time, studies repeatedly show that social robots can relieve nursing staff and improve the well-being of those in need of care. This meta-study by Reza Kachouie came to the same conclusion after evaluating 95 individual studies on the subject.
Social robots can perform the following tasks, for example:

  • 1:1 address residents in parallel with caregivers: People with dementia need a very expressive emotional address (non-verbal communication), which is physically and mentally very demanding.
  • Continuously checking and visiting residents in rooms and checking for condition
  • Raise the alarm when risks are detected in residents (falling down, pain, cries for help, leaving the house)
  • Give standard information such as information about lunch menu, weather etc.
  • Encourage residents to drink and eat
  • Play music from the respective time
  • Play games, tell jokes, do memory exercises

Of course, social robots also cost money. The nursing robot Paro, for example, costs about 5,000 euros. But all other interventions to entertain and care for the home residents also cost money: Whether lectures, painting courses, TV sets, massage chairs, animals, etc. The important question is which investments can help the people in need of care and nursing staff the most. And it seems that social robots could be at the forefront of this in the future.