There’s no disputing that pets are great at combating loneliness, and can often brighten the face of even the grumpiest grouch in town.
The staff at Above and Beyond Home Health Care will agree that many seniors especially enjoy having someone or something to take care of, to talk to, and that may even seem to respond to their affection. Pets can lower blood pressure, which is a big benefit of having them around.
But there are also a lot of practical reasons why it’s not always the best idea to introduce a pet into someone’s home, especially if it may be difficult to provide regular care. If someone is having a hard time keeping up with their own housekeeping, it may be not be the best idea to bring in a messy, smelly, pet who may want or need a lot of attention.
Someone suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia also might even forget things like providing food or water, or to let an indoor/outdoor dog or cat in. Perhaps someone who is receiving hospice care or is in declining health may not want to get a pet since they may not know what to do with it if their condition changes. Or someone may have allergies that prevent them from having a pet, or a limited budget and may not be able to afford pet food. Where someone lives might not allow pets either due to sanitation or mess, such as an apartment policy.
But there are now some interesting alternatives that may provide some of the good things that a pet can offer Cedar Rapids residents, but without any of the objections.
The solution is robot pets, which are actually a thing.
Design technology has improved so that artificial cats and dogs now can move, purr, nuzzle and enjoy being petted. They look and act lifelike as well, which why they are becoming useful tools, especially for patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
The Ability To Calm
In 2016, The New York Times featured a Memory Care wing of a care facility in New York that brought in five robot cats to act as artificial therapy animals. The residents, many with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or advanced health conditions, responded quite well and treated them like actual cats, such as stroking them, talking to them and enjoying their company.
And the cats seemingly returned the favor, or at least simulated it, which was good enough for the residents, who enjoyed their meows, purring, moving eyes and nuzzling. The residents spoke to them and generally enjoyed their company.
The facility already had found benefits of bringing in real cats and dogs occasionally to help soothe residents if they became anxious, and bring smiles to their faces. But the robot pets could potentially be distributed anytime of the day or night and don’t require handlers, food or water, or their litter box changed. Maybe just fresh batteries once in awhile.
The ability to calm dementia suffers quickly and easily can be invaluable for caregivers, whether someone is at home or at a care facility. People with advanced condition may quickly panic or be agitated at certain times.
While they may or not remember interacting with this specific artificial cat before, they can at least recognize a friendly looking cat and want to pet it. There’s also no risk of harm to residents either, such as biting or scratching.
Robotic Pets Come In Many Types
There are a variety of robot-pets on the market, from ones sold as toys to ones sold as actual medical devices.
Hasbro sells three different models of the “Joy for All” Companion pet: an orange one, a silver and white one, and a white one. Each one retails for around $99.
Another popular critter in a box is a PARO, an animal that looks similar to a seal, but with big friendly eyes. This lifelike animal costs around $6,000, since it’s officially a FDA-approved registered medical device.
PARO has also been part of a nationwide study about robotic therapy animals. The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease shared information about an experiment which tried to see how effective it can be in treating dementia symptoms.
The 12-week experiment found that usage of PARO had positive effects such as reducing anxiety, blood pressure/pulse rate. If people were less stressed, they’re less likely to want to use pain medication, another bonus.
Home health care can help
People in the Cedar Rapids area may want to know more about options to get their own robo-therapy animals as pets. Above and Beyond Home Health Care can assist in providing research materials or recommendations for different styles and budgets, especially those with a loved one battling Alzheimer’s or other dementias. The team will be happy to talk to patients and observe their behavior with or without cats.