Skype in the Nursing Home
Abstract: Skype in nursing home as a replacement for direct contacts by relatives - product proposal
here is a short spec:
- skype i18n user interface appropriate for people with dementia
- simplified administration (minimal time and effort for staff)
- integrated update functionality (Windows update?)
- hardware as simple as possible as powerful as necessary with connectivity to TV screen and web cam, (S)VGA, HDMI, USB, and XYZ interfaces
- uploading of pictures from USB stick
- less than 10 min installation time whenever there is internet connectivity
and here is the why:
My 92-years old mother in law resides in a nursing home. I'm very happy that they have installed thorough restriction of direct physical contact given the current situation. Unfortunately, this also creates problems to us. We just established a 7/2 arrangement such that my mother in law had a person visiting her at least 2 hours every day. This is the best way of carrying warmth and emotions. Old persons, in partcular those suffering from dementia, heavily rely on such contacts. These contacts are now replaced by phone calls - however, this cuts "empathic" bandwith.
Skype would be a phantastic solution to this problem. Resident phone extensions in nursing homes are often private, and they function like stationary mobile phones. Internet access is usually included - at least, with Vodafone, this appears generally to be the case. Now what we need is a simple solution: A central box - a Raspberry PI? -, sockets to connect a TV screen and normal screens as well as a web cam, microhone, and speakers. In addition, a very simple and intuitive user interface with minimal functionality, possibly supporting a remote control: Select a contact from a menu which may be enhanced by a photo, call her, terminate a call, and adjust loudness. In an extended administration mode, you could register new contacts, edit or remove them, add a picture, replace it with a different one, or remove it, register a contact by using a previous incoming call. Finally, adjust the locale, since we do not assume every resident to be native to the current language.
Don't expect to rely on the nursing home's IT infrastructure. For legal reasons, such infrastructure needs to be closed. My first idea was to suggest that they provide a room with skype equipment. But now I think this is a rather non-realistic expectation. Instead, the residents by themselves or their relatives should take the initiative. An equipment as described above, which may be installed within less than 10 minutes by a caretaker, is likely to reduce effort from the staff and thus take a little bit away from their burden.
OK, but where do I get such equipment? From Microsoft, of course, where Skype is part of their product portfolio. And this is my intent: I have been working for more than 30 years with Microsoft products, I'm a software developer and architect (unfortunately without any knowledge about Skype APIs), and I'm very confident about Microsoft's capability to implement a user interface as described above within a couple of days, possibly supported by the community. The hardware is likely to require a little bit more time.
Anyway, I consider such product really, really helpful. It helps our elder people, in particular those suffering from dementia, and I expect it to reduce slighty the staff's risk, since the home's residents will be able to keep themselves busy for longer times, so they would ask for the staff's services less often.
A slight optimization were possible if distribution could deliver directly to nursing homes, provided sufficiently many orders come from their residents or the relatives of these.
I would be very happy if you at Microsoft took this proposal into closer considerastion!