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You are here: Home i In Focus i In focus 2014 i Technology changes working life i “I've become more independent"
“I've become more independent"
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“I've become more independent"

| Text: Marie Preisler

Aarhus Municipality is paving the way in introducing welfare technology. For 67 year old Svend Erik Christensen this means he can manage much more on his own — including going to the toilet.

67 year old Svend Erik Christensen has access to a range of different welfare technology in his home at the Sabro community centre near Aarhus. Without them he would be far less independent, he reckons:

“I had two brain haemorrhages three years ago and became paralysed down my left side. For nine months all I could do was lie flat, staring at the ceiling, but since moving here my recovery has really accelerated,” he says.

Svend Erik Christensen used to be dependent on nursing staff to get to the toilet, but at the Sabro community centre, where he has been living for two years now, he can manage toilet visits himself, because his bathroom has a special toilet with a built-in wash and dry function.

“My paralysis means I cannot dry myself, but the toilet does it for me. It washes my backside and air-drys it afterwards, and I can control the water temperature and it all works via remote control. It is incredibly nice to not need help for something so personal and intimate,” he says.

Svend Erik Christensen is keen to recover and makes great progress. But so far he needs his wheelchair to get around his own flat, which has been fitted with remote controlled doors, windows and curtains. He is happy that the government and municipalities want to focus more on welfare technology in the future.

“I would never have got as far in my recovery without the technological aids at my disposal, and I feel more independent - it is almost like living in my own house again. So more welfare technology is a good development. Anyone who needs it should have access to the kind of aids I have,” he says. 

Room for experiment 

Aarhus is Denmark’s second largest municipality and is paving the way in introducing welfare technology. More than 500 residential care homes in Aarhus municipality have been fitted with various welfare technology solutions. Robot vacuum cleaners are used more or less in most units, and toilets with wash and dry function are also installed in many homes. Both staff and residents are mostly happy, states Aarhus municipality in a new guide to how to choose welfare technology.   

Britt Madsen, a social and health assistant with responsibility for welfare technology at the Rosenvang community centre, agrees. The centre has 42 residential care homes and was renovated two years ago and filled with various kinds of welfare technology: washing toilets, robot vacuum cleaners, lifts, automatic windows and doors, light control in bathrooms and adjustable tables in kitchens and bathrooms. 

“The washing toilets and stair chair lifts represent great progress, because they save us staff from doing all the heavy lifting. The toilets are height adjustable so the residents can get up themselves when they have finished. We also save time, and it is satisfying on a professional level to be able to help residents to manage things themselves,” says Britt Madsen. 

Staff test products themselves

Most of the centre’s residents are too ill to go to the toilet themselves, however, and the staff have not calculated how much time the toilets save. But from experience, the washing toilets helps prevent constipation and urinary tract infections — ailments which make residents very ill and cost staff a lot of time. 

Creating new working patterns and introducing new technology does meet with  some resistance among staff, says Britt Madsen. That’s why it is important to have a key person who can thoroughly explain the technology:

Svend Erik“It is natural for staff to be a bit sceptical to new things, and we had heard about other municipalities where new washing toilets and robot vacuum cleaners were never used or were criticised for not working properly. So all of our staff are trained in how to operate this technology and have tried the washing toilets and the lifts themselves.” 

She points out the importance of managerial support too, because of the economic implications of staff training and of having key people like herself. If management engages in this technology, it will motivate staff.

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