Categories: Compassion

Robotic pets are better than the real thing for elderly people with dementia at care homes

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It was a little surprising to me that it is been found through research that robo-pets can help tackle loneliness and isolation for people with dementia living in care homes.

Robo-pet Arnie comforts Joyce. Photo: Tim Bradley

Perhaps it should not be surprising. I’m going to be controversial. Humans are human-animals. We know how animals can be imprinted with the idea that a plush toy is their mother. I can remember a wild cat kitten being placed into an enclosed area in a home with a plush toy and the kitten found solace and safety by cuddling up to the plush toy.

I think humans are the same at a fundamental level and elderly people in care homes with dementia are more likely to react instinctively, in my view, with respect to their relationships with companion animals. This instinct means that they can find comfort and form friendships even with robotic, artificial cats and dogs. And of course there are many adult humans who keep plush toys on their bed for emotional comfort. It is the same thing.

There are many instances of robo-pets being used under these circumstances successfully. In this instance a Lancashire care home has taken delivery of 20 robotic pets following a fundraising drive by Lancashire County Council and Lancashire 50+ which raised more than £1,800.

The robotic pets behave just like normal animals. The dogs bark and wag their tails while the cat’s meow and perform behavioural actions such as washing their face but of course they don’t need feeding, grooming and all the usual other maintenance tasks that the genuine article does.

County councillor Joan Burrows said that many people in care homes miss taking care of cats and dogs and that it is really important for them. This fills that gap in their lives.

“These Robo-pets are fantastic because they look and act like the real thing. The dogs bark when they hear you, the cats purr when you stroke them. They are relaxing and calming and encourage care home residents to socialise as they share memories.”

County councillor Joan Burrows

Loneliness carries a health risk which, it is said, is the equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Lancashire the county council is looking to raise some more money so that more care homes within their county can have a robo-pet.

Source: Myself and Blackpool Gazette online.

MikeB

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