Implementing smart speakers for care home residents across a region: uses, benefits and barriers
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Background: Smart speakers to improve wellbeing had been trialled in social care by others but we were not aware of any implementation in a majority of care homes across a region. For widespread adoption of new technology, it has to be locally demonstrable and become normalised. Objective: For 150 (two thirds) care homes in one rural and coastal region to install smart speakers and to explore if and how devices were used, barriers to implementation, and potential benefits. Methods: Email, workshops, drop-in sessions, phone, and cold calling was used to contact all 230 care homes, offering a free smart speaker and some advisory support. Care homes accepting devices were asked to complete a feedback diary. Non-response rate for diary completion was high, and was thus supplemented with a telephone survey. Results: It took 7 months to install 156 devices in 92 care homes for older people, 50 for people with physical or mental health needs and eight others. Devices were used mainly for music but also for poetry, recipes, controlling lights, jokes, and video calls. Care home managers reported benefits for residents including enhanced engagement with home activities, enjoyment, calming effects, and acquisition of new skills. Implementation problems included internet connectivity, staff capacity and skills. Conclusions: Affordable consumer devices, such as smart speakers, should be installed in all care homes to benefit residents. Voice-activated technologies are easy to use and promote interaction. This study indicates that implementation in care homes was possible and that smart speakers had multifaceted benefit for residents and staff. Most care homes in this region now use smart speakers for residents therefore normalising this practice.
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