Robotic, or animatronic pets, are being used to soothe the anxiety and loneliness that individuals with Alzheimer's or dementia often experience. These robotic animals can ease that anxiety and sense of social isolation without the use of drugs. The robotic animals even provide the opportunity for the affected individual to be in the role of nurturer, which can be a very calming experience for him or her.
"A dog or cat can be a companion throughout the day for an elderly individual with Alzheimer's disease or dementia. Social isolation is a very common problem among older adults, and having a pet is a really wonderful way to combat that,” notes Dr. Mattan Schuchman, of Johns Hopkins Home-Based Medicine program. Having a robotic pet eliminates the responsibility of a live pet, too, so there’s no stress or burden involved for its owner.
A faux pet can often ease anxiety and bring a sense of joy and well-being. Using a robotic animal is a good way to engage the affected individual as well as giving him or her a purposeful and rewarding activity. It can also be an effective way to decrease stress and agitation, and to provide that person some responsibility, putting structure and purpose back into his or her life.
Robotic animals can provide many positive outcomes for the person who suffers from Alzheimer's disease or dementia. It can provide endless hours of hugs and smiles, lull the person to sleep, create a distraction from an upsetting or harmful event or outburst, serve as an attention-getter, provide a tool for social interaction, regenerate warm, nurturing feelings of being a young child, and, perhaps most of all, make it possible for someone who is so totally dependent on others because of the disease to actually "care" for something else.
Human beings have the instinct to nurture, to show affection, to give and receive love. These instincts don't go away, even as memories deteriorate with Alzheimer's or dementia. Robotic pets can help sustain these basic human needs and bring a little happiness to some experiencing such a cognitive decline. A good resource for realistic robotic cats or dogs can be found at Hasbro's Joy for All Companions at joyforall.hasbro.com.
Questions about Alzheimer's disease or a related disorder can be sent to Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, director of services at Alzheimer's Services of the Capital Area at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the organization at 3772 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.