A new rest home is planning to be the first in New Zealand to use an iPad-style tablet to connect residents with family and nurse staff at the touch of a button, allowing them to order dinner, watch TV and make phone calls.
Rāwhiti Estate, which opens on 15 October, will cater for 27 independent living residents, 48 rest home and hospital residents and 20 memory loss residents.
General manager Helen Martelli tells Afternoons' Jesse Mulligan the tablet, which will be paired with communication badge for nurses, makes things easier for staff and residents alike.
She says the software for the tablets has been designed with big-button displays specifically for aged care, allowing residents to contact family members with a voice or video call directly by pressing a photo.
"It means that the residents can stay connected with their families, they can talk to their nurse, they can order their meals, they can get involved in taking control and the power back in their lives by using the technology to entertain themselves and to talk to people."
She says they've done some testing, and three of the residents said - unprompted - that they were no longer taking antidepressants.
One woman had been having frequent panic attacks in the middle of the night.
"Because she could pick up the technology and call her daughter and have a video conference, the incidence of those panic attacks has reduced dramatically," Ms Martelli says.
The communication badge technology also connects residents directly to their nurse on call.
"In the health system at the moment when a resident pushes their call bell they wait and they wait and they wait to see if someone's coming, but this way our residents can actually talk directly to the person who's providing them support and care.
"That person can come with whatever the resident needs and can reassure them that someone's on their way."
She says the badges also allow the nurses to instantly contact each other, making their work much more efficient too.
"Our staff will spend less time walking backwards and forwards between rooms getting the gear that they need, finding each other.
"We've estimated it's going to save us about 5200 hours a year in our 68-bed facility because the communication is instant ... and the residents' expectations are being met."
She says it's been proven to improve staff retention, and won't simply allow staff to slack off.
"Staff can hide away even if they don't have the technology. We're creating a fun environment for staff to work in and that residents want to be part of because they can have fun and communicate easily.
"I think technology will never ever replace the human connection that's so unique to care. We want to use technology to free up staff and to provide residents the opportunity to have more time with people."