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Close Communities or Remote Monitoring?

I have just come back from visiting my Mother, who lives in the north of England. On the outbound train I found myself sitting next to a recently-qualified GP, and we talked about primary care. I explained to Helen (let’s call her that) I thought using IT for remote monitoring would be the key to healthcare in Britain’s aging population. She thought that closer communities and families were needed.

Helen is Greek and is accustomed to extended families. She is struck by the lack of them and close communities in the UK. Issues daughters and sons might consult their fathers, mothers and grandparents about are now often taken to their GP. In addition, the aged are left to live alone, some unvisited for weeks. Consequently, she supported community nursing and nurse practitioners and perhaps the recreation of local community hospitals.

All of this took the wind out of my sails. We will be able to manage remotely long-term conditions with a combination of ICT and better sensors, and telecare may be a practical way to make efficient use of increasingly scarce qualified staff. But what of the human touch? Would I like my Mother to be alone with only technology to keep her company?


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What about families actually caring about their parents and taking them into their homes? Sadly I think this may have gone out of style. My sister once told my mother that she better get ready for the nursing home, because my mom wasn't staying with her. I couldn't believe it and told her that my mom was always welcome at my house. What's happening to parental responsibilty? I personally love going to old folks homes and just talking with them even if I'm sad that such a simple thing could bring them such joy.

You are both right.


Not only are modern families more dispersed, but even ones that are closer, geographically and emotionally, seem less comfortable with the idea of adult children taking care of aging parents. Maybe there's some aspect of Future IT that will address this, technology that will make it easier for both parties to enable this kind of critical social care that goes wanting today.

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