Giraff to Help Dementia Sufferers

July 6, 2014
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Ah Scotland! Beautiful, raw, destitute and ever longing – at least among its poor – for independence from the rest of the UK. With Prime Minister David Cameron’s relentless austerity cuts inspiring rage all around, a longing for Scottish independence is getting shrill again. This would all be well and good if Scottish Nationalists offered some light at the end of the tartan tunnel and there were jobs and progress to offer, but even the biggest suckers aren’t that gullible. At the moment, SN’s aren’t really in the position to offer their people anything. There are those, however, who, like Irish republicans before them, feel that any local boss is better than one who’s English.

Giraff to Help Dementia Sufferers

The Scottish Nationalists are actually a pretty savvy bunch. None of that Basque-type terror talk. Just the familiar Us-v-Them and some rather good patter about making Edinburgh the techno capital of Europe and Scotland the brave an entrepreneur’s heaven within the EEC. A sort of techno paradise for startups and a possible new home for all kinds of engineers, designers and computer boffins who can work free of tax worries for a decade or more. This has been the SN platform for a decade and it has been so well received by the public that the Conservatives have co-opted it onto their own party platform. And with the help of well connected American political wonks like James Carville and the advise of software billionaire Mark Cuban, the notion of Techno Scotia might actually take off.

Indeed, despite all the ruthless cuts and a welfare state divestiture that sees dithering politicians wobbling at the knees like wounded hippos, M.P.’s have seen fit to sponsor certain technologies they feel will be able to pay their own way in a short time. Thus without incurring much expense, the Scottish Conservative Party has invested in robots and covered itself in PR glory at the expense of a stodgy Labor party and a gob-smacked bunch of SN’s who’ve been trumped using their own ideas.

As of July 13, 2014, NHS Western Isles is putting robots known as Giraffs into the homes of people with dementia as part of a pilot scheme to help them continue living independently. According to the BBC, a relative or caregiver – one who might even live hundreds of miles away – if they have access to a computer (and soon a smartphone) can drive the machine around the house to check that everything is all right.

Giraff to Help Dementia Sufferers

The caregiver can communicate with the robot; or if the dementia or Alzheimer’s sufferer is sometimes lucid, the two humans involved can also communicate through the robot’s two-way video call system. Their face will appear on a screen allowing them to chat to the other person.

The Giraff robots are 1.5m (4ft 11in) tall with wheels, and have a TV screen instead of a head. A relative or carer can call up the Giraff with a computer from any location. The operator can also drive the robot around the house to check that medications are being taken and that food delivered by Meals-on-Wheels is being eaten. The Giraff, nicknamed Skype on Wheels, was created by a team of researchers from the Dementia Collaborative Research Centre in Brisbane, Australia.

NHS Western Isles will be piloting the Giraff for the first time in Scotland, as, partly funded by the European Union project Remodem, it aims to investigate ways to support people with dementia living in remote communities. Earlier trials in Australia showed that people with dementia were not afraid of the machines. They hope the robots will help people living alone in remote areas to feel less lonely.

This is certainly a more worthwhile product than its flippant description in the Daily Express allows when calling it ‘Skype on Wheels.’ The viability of this breakthrough will surely not only be useful for the elderly, but also helpful for disabled folks of all ages and those who suffer with debilitating diseases like M.S. and Parkinson’s.

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