Will This Robot Help Replace Nursing Homes?

Anyone who has ever lost their balance knows the value of having a sturdy friend nearby to catch us before we hit the deck. A robot in development in Singapore is designed to be a friend for the elderly. It’s at least a few years away from hitting the U.S. marketplace, but this assistance robot, nicknamed “Mr. Bah” could help the elderly live longer and more rewarding lives.

When we are younger, a slip-and-fall tends to injure our pride more than anything else, but when we get older, falls become more common and more deadly. In fact, falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths in people over 65, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

Researchers at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore along with Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) have developed a robot that is designed to detect and prevent a fall before it happens. It is intended to help both the elderly and those who are rehabbing from injury. It’s called the Mobile Robotic Balance Assistant or MR-BA (pronounced ‘Mister-Bah’).

How Does It Work?

Mr. Bah looks something like a cross between a mobility scooter and one of those devices you may have seen that help the disabled enter and exit a swimming pool. There is a harness attached to the person’s hips, and behind the user follows the robot, which has a computer-enabled base with four primary wheels. When Mr. Bah senses the person losing their balance, it engages the harness to prevent the fall.

It can also help people stand and sit safely. Mr. Bah would be a game-changer for many people who lack the strength or physical ability to get moving. It would help the elderly continue some of the activities we take for granted and that are required for a more independent lifestyle.

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Mobility Plus Confidence

The robot also represents a confidence booster for the elderly who are afraid of falling. For many people of advanced age, the very real risk of falling keeps them in bed or seated when they otherwise would prefer to be up, moving, and doing things. Plus, the more time we spend in bed or in our favorite chair due to fear of falling, the more we are likely to lose what strength and balance we have. It makes the times when we need to get up and move even more dangerous.

This type of solution would encourage the elderly to keep active while curbing the risk of injury due to a fall. In a clinical trial with 29 patients over 3 days, Mister Bah was able to prevent all falls.

When Can I Get a Mr. Bah?

Researchers at NTU & TTSH are raising additional funding to get regulatory approval in the United States, among other markets. According to the Washington Post, they plan to have a hospital-grade model, which would cost about $20,000, and an at-home version with fewer bells and whistles that would run for about $4,000.

Better Senior Living Through Robotics?

Even $20,000 would be a bargain if the robot could help people afford to age at home safely. One of the main reasons that families are forced to choose a nursing home is due to a family member’s loss of mobility. Once we lose our ability to get around on our own, it can require around-the-clock assistance from a family member or an at-home care worker if we want to age at home. If the family cannot afford those options (and most can’t), the nursing home is the last resort. Even at $20,000, if it could help a person age at home, it would likely be a tiny fraction of the cost of having a family member quit work to provide care, hiring an at-home care worker, or the extreme expense of 24/7 nursing home care.

Sadly, when they get to the nursing home, the facility is often so short-staffed, they are too busy to help every person who needs help getting up or sitting down when they need it. Many elderly residents in nursing homes get tired of waiting for a staff member to have time to help, and they attempt to do more than their physical ability will allow. This type of negligence is how many elderly residents find themselves with horrible slip-and-fall injuries.

If you or a loved one has experienced a devastating fall in a nursing home, you should consult a legal professional. It’s very possible that the fall could have been avoided. For more information, contact Brown & Barron online or call (410) 698-1717 for a free, no-obligation review of your situation.

Mr. Bah robot
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