Use of robotic animal companions in dementia care: a qualitative study of the immediate and long-term effects to enhance quality of life and feelings of wellbeing for individuals living with dementia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

For the person living with dementia the moments to experience true
affection may not occur very frequently. Deterioration of cognitive and physical
abilities may eventually force people to live in an unfamiliar environment, like a
residential age care facility. The inevitable absence of (deceased) relatives and
friends can dramatically undermine the opportunities to touch and be touched
resulting in touch deprivation and fewer opportunities for emotional attachment.
The affective presence of pets can encourage social touch, bring emotional and
social connection, stimulate reminiscence and promote feelings of well-being for
the person living with dementia. Due to practical constraints as well as physical
decline, elderly often (need to) abandon the wish to take care of an animal. It has
been suggested that animal-like robot companions could provide an elegant solution
to enhance person-centered care, notably without replacing human contact. In this
qualitative study, we endeavor to explore the potential psychosocial health benefits
offered by robotic animal companions. We report on insights obtained from two
qualitative studies, deploying two different robotic animals in contrasting
environments, timespans and circumstances. In the first study, we investigate
responses of people with dementia towards a living dog versus a robotic companion
in a care home setting. The second study, a longitudinal case study, investigates the
psychosocial effects of a single individual with Alzheimer's disease bonding with a
robotic pet. Our results suggest that the use of animal like robotic companions can
be beneficial, and can significantly enrich the social and emotional life of people
living with dementia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-49
Number of pages5
JournalAnnual Review of Cybertherapy and Telemedicine
Volume18
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Keywords

  • dementia
  • robotic companion animals
  • affective presence
  • longitudinal study
  • qualitative research
  • warm technology

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