Calabasas senior living facility joins the robotic age
Some call her Rosie after the maid in the "The Jetsons" cartoon. Others simply refer to the machine as "Robot." Either way, the lifelike machine at Silverado Senior Living in Calabasas has certainly made a name for itself.
The robot is about the size of an average 5½-foot person and has a computer monitor for a head. Medical directors, nurses or corporate employees from any of the 15 Silverado sites nationwide can log onto a computer and, with a joystick, control the robot. They speak into a camera which displays their image on the robot's screen, creating an opportunity for Calabasas employees to walk and talk with, for example, someone from Silverado Utah.
The robot is wireless, and, via a webcam mounted on the robot's head, the controller can see in all directions almost effortlessly, bypassing the many residents wandering the halls. As a precaution, the slowmoving robot is wrapped with bumpers at the bottom.
Rachelle Dardeau, administrator at Silverado, said sometimes her bosses will log on from another location and the robot will turn on.
"Sometimes we'll get surprise calls, and I'll just hear, 'Unplug me, unplug me!'" Dardeau said. "We keep the robot plugged in to charge, but if someone accesses the robot from another site and wants to take a look around, we have to go and unplug them. It's really funny."
Since the robot's arrival three years ago, there have been many improvements in the monitor's resolution and in the robot's movement capabilities.
Three Silverado sites have a robot; the machines are used for corporate meetings, conferences, training and patient care.
A Japanese delegation visited the Calabasas home for Alzheimer's and dementia patients this week to learn more about the robot that the center has incorporated into its community.
Hidetada Onishi of Teijin Group, a multibillion dollar global corporation that provides products and services to home healthcare and assisted-living facilities and nursing homes in Japan, was there to study how hightechnology medical equipment is being utilized to assist in patient care.
Kyoko Kent, an international healthcare consultant at K2 & Associates, was also a part of the visiting delegation.
Kent was interested in how the idea of bringing a robot into Silverado came up.
"How did you decide to do something like this, and what was your reaction?" Kent asked. Dardeau said Silverado's progressive doctors wanted give the robot a try and the Calabasas community was a test site. So far, the response has been excellent, she said.
"Sometimes the medical director will just go up and down the halls at night to see how the residents are doing," Dardeau said. "They can assess them visually."
The robot's controller can also take a still frame from the webcam video and use the snapshot for a resident's file.
During Onishi and Kent's visit, Anne Ellet, a corporate nurse, logged onto the robot to speak with some patients. She checked on Norman, who came into Silverado nearly bedridden from the hospital and now roams the halls with a walker.
"You look like you're a very strong walker," Ellet said from the screen.
With 15 minutes Norman had shed the walker and was checking out a stretching class in a nearby room.
"It's interesting from my perspective to see the hallways and residents from here," Ellet said on the screen, although she was actually at Silverado's San Juan Capistrano offices. "I can talk to families or do training long distance. I can go with (a nurse) to look at a skin problem. It's wonderful to experience everything in real time."
"If we see a patient we are concerned about, maybe looking very listless, we can use the robot to have a doctor check him out," Dardeau said. "Especially in Los Angeles, to get a doctor here can take a lot of time. This way he can look at the patient himself right away."
Although it's been debated in the healthcare industry whether robots could replace nurses, Dardeau said that's something Silverado is absolutely not interested in pursuing.
"One of the core values at Silverado is based on touch," Dardeau said. "That's why we have so many pets here, and we have a spa room here. All the medical technology in the world won't replace that, especially with dementia patients where touch is so important. Silverado would never allow that."
The visitors said they were impressed.
"This is such a great model," Onishi said. "It's very interesting."