Reimagining Caregiving With AI’s Help

Kwame Som-Pimpong
Written by Kwame Som-Pimpong
reimagining caregiving
Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Alibaba founder Jack Ma recently debated AI and the future of work at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai. Musk is pictured at the unveiling the Model Y, Hawthorne, Calif., March 14, 2019 file photo, (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File). Ma is pictured at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber).

There have been so many predictions about the future of work, so many viewpoints on what the future looks like in an artificial intelligence world. Will AI dominate our existence or come alongside us to figure out how we free ourselves up to do more of the things that are meaningful to us?

A few weeks ago at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai, Tesla CEO Elon Musk and former Alibaba Chairman Jack Ma debated each other on AI. Both men have had significant involvement in the development of AI technology at their respective companies.

Alibaba is one of the largest e-commerce businesses in the world with nearly $60 billion in annual revenue. The company is investing heavily in AI and machine learning for things like voice and facial recognition, city operations, smart stores, and more.

Tesla is an electric vehicle maker and an energy company that is using artificial intelligence to develop its autonomous driving technology and in the software that powers Tesla’s vehicles.

Musk said he believes that we need to literally join our minds with AI in order to have a chance of surviving AI’s takeover of the world. Jack Ma waved away concerns about AI citing the bright future people can expect and that he’s not worried about artificial intelligence destroying jobs. In his mind, AI can’t compare with human love and wisdom as key differentiators.

The one area where the two agreed was that the work people do in the future will have more to do with empathy, love, and creativity. This is a line espoused by a number of leaders in this space.

If this is true, I am particularly interested to see what happens in the case of African-American caregivers. The data around the burden African-Americans bear in providing care is eye-opening. Of the 40 million caregivers in the U.S., Black people report the second-highest levels of caregiving, following Hispanics, according to the AARP. Further, 57 percent of Black caregivers report spending at least 30 hours a week providing care.

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This is important to me personally. My mother has been a caregiver most of my life, taking care of her now-94-year-old mother who began developing Alzheimer’s in her late 60s, and two of her sisters.

Reimagining care in an AI-world presents a host of opportunities. The following is one that comes to mind.

A device for parallel health assessments

My mother is constantly checking on my grandmother, talking to her as she feeds her, braiding her hair, clipping her nails and more. Imagine her Google Home or another smart device listening in on her tone as she cares for her mom over the course of a day, along with the other professionals my mom has hired to help care for her mom.

My mom would get a regular assessment of her wellness as it pertained to her care of her mom along with a set of questions to try and keep her at a high energy level mentally and physically.

“Have you exercised today?”

“Have you and your husband gone on a date this week?”

“When was the last time you talked to your best friend?”

The AI could be a tool in ensuring caregivers are taking care of themselves, something that often goes by the wayside as these folks take on what can be an extremely stressful responsibility. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, caregivers who are experiencing mental or emotional strain have a 63-percent higher risk of dying than their non-caregiving peers. A tool to help mitigate this could be a gamechanger.

With people living longer, caregiving is more in demand and an increasingly attractive option as we seek greater connection. A lot of people don’t necessarily have the right mix of temperament and skill to get into the space. AI could help ensure that folks caring for the elderly are in as good shape as possible.

Being able to catch below-the-surface issues with professionals is another benefit of the use case. Around one in 10 individuals over age 60 have experienced some form of abuse, according to the National Council on Aging. The presence of AI tools could have a huge impact on the quality of care your loved one receives.

Limitations of such a device

If there is no audio from the device then this whole concept is useless. Unfortunately, we people are really good at circumventing things. Cameras could be linked with the smart device to capture the visual component of their care. A caregiver who stays silent and eludes the cameras in a home should have a number of hard questions coming their way.

As technology continues to improve, we will be living longer and more folks will become caregivers or work in that space. Having assistive technology could make already hard work more sustainable for the wellbeing of the caregiver and the loved one.

Kwame Som-Pimpong leverages relentless research, a knack for connecting dots, human-centered design approach, and effective communications strategy to help organizations realize their strategic objectives. Over a 10-year career, Kwame has supercharged grassroots political organizing efforts, assessed the effectiveness of U.S. federal agencies, managed an international program, founded a digital media startup, and advised government agencies on delighting their end-users. He earned a BA in Political Science from Davidson College and Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia. He can be reached at kwame.som.pimpong@gmail.com.