Various technological interventions have been proposed and studied to address the growing demand for care of residents in assisted living facilities, in which a preexisting shortage of professional caregivers has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Care robots are one such intervention with the potential to improve both the care of older adults and the work life of their professional caregivers. However, concerns about efficacy, ethics, and best practices in the applications of robotic technologies in care settings remain.
This scoping review aimed to examine the literature on robots used in assisted living facilities and identify gaps in the literature to guide future research.
On 2023-02-01 12:00:00 12, 2022, following the PRISMA-ScR (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses extension for Scoping Reviews) protocol, we searched PubMed, CINAHL Plus with Full Text, PsycINFO, IEEE Xplore digital library, and ACM Digital Library using predetermined search terms. Publications were included if they were written in English and focused on the use of robotics in assisted living facilities. Publications were excluded if they did not provide peer-reviewed empirical data, focused on user needs, or developed an instrument to study human-robot interaction. The study findings were then summarized, coded, and analyzed using the Patterns, Advances, Gaps, Evidence for practice, and Research recommendations framework.
The final sample included 73 publications from 69 unique studies on the use of robots in assisted living facilities. The findings of studies on older adults were mixed, with some studies suggesting positive impacts of robots, some expressing concerns about robots and barriers to their use, and others being inconclusive. Although many therapeutic benefits of care robots have been identified, methodological limitations have weakened the internal and external validity of the findings of these studies. Few studies (18/69, 26%) considered the context of care: most studies (48/69, 70%) collected data only on recipients of care, 15 studies collected data on staff, and 3 studies collected data on relatives or visitors. Theory-driven, longitudinal, and large sample size study designs were rare. Across the authors’ disciplines, a lack of consistency in methodological quality and reporting makes it difficult to synthesize and assess research on care robotics.
The findings of this study call for more systematic research on the feasibility and efficacy of robots in assisted living facilities. In particular, there is a dearth of research on how robots may change geriatric care and the work environment within assisted living facilities. To maximize the benefits and minimize the consequences for older adults and caregivers, future research will require interdisciplinary collaboration among health sciences, computer science, and engineering as well as agreement on methodological standards.