Friday, June 08, 2018 by Carol Anderson
Around 50 million people were diagnosed with dementia in 2017, and the number continues to grow every year. This condition doesn’t only affect the patients, but also the people around them since sufferers are known to lose their memories and go through a decline in other cognitive skills.
Fortunately, a robotic dog has been created to use for therapy sessions for dementia patients. In Bournemouth, England, the robotic dog called Biscuit visits old people staying in a care home. According to Simon Bird, deputy chief executive at Care South and owner of the Templeman House where Biscuit visits, the patients’ interactions with the robotic dog effectively reduce their stress and anxiety levels.
“When we do have residents that are getting particularly stressed or very anxious, the manager or the staff will bring Biscuit out. He’s a good distraction. He reduces stress levels,” Bird said. “He does stimulate memory and also encourages a lot of social interaction and recollection and reminiscence.” (Related: CONFIRMED: Antidepressants and other drugs cause dementia.)
Denna Barnes, home manager at the care home, shared that Biscuit was a great help particularly to one of their residents, Ron Grantham. She said that after the encounter between the 99-year-old and the dog, they found out how Grantham used to go fly-fishing with his dog, Spot, and remembered he used to bring his dog across the fields while he fished.
In an interview, Barnes said the story was new to all of them, and that it only means Biscuit truly helps elicit memories from residents and spark conversations with care providers. Another resident, 94-year-old Elsie Proctor, was also seen petting the dog while saying, “You’re beautiful. Yes, you are a beautiful one, yes, that’s lovely.”
Biscuit is among the robotic dogs and cats released by U.S. toy company Hasbro as part of its “Joy For All” brand campaign. Its main initiative is to help combat stress and loneliness issues particularly among elderly patients.
“Aging loved ones and their caregivers have been thrilled with the Companion Pet Cats [and Dogs], and we are inspired by their positive feedback and personal stories,” said Ted Fischer, vice president of business development at Hasbro.
The dog stands around two feet tall and looks like a breed between a Labrador and a poodle. It has been equipped with various sensors that enable it to react whenever humans interact with it. It responds to touch by wiggling its nose, and making dog sounds such as barking. Biscuit can also sit up, lie down, and give a paw.
Therapy animals really do help in managing stress in care homes. But there is a downside to it – these animals eventually have to leave and go home after helping the residents. On the other hand, robotic dogs and cats are on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They are also allowed to do home visits for bedridden patients.
According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, the number of people with dementia will grow to 75 million in 2030, and will double again in the year 2050 with at least 131.5 million patients. This means one person suffers from the condition every three seconds.
The increase is reported to be more rampant in developing countries like India and other south Asian and western Pacific countries. Currently, 58 percent of those diagnosed with dementia reside in low and middle income regions. What’s more alarming is that only 20 to 50 percent of dementia cases are reported and properly documented.
Awareness of the condition is important, especially since it has been said that early diagnosis and early intervention are significant factors to help lessen the treatment gap we are now facing.
Learn more about the signs of dementia at Alzheimers.news.