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How Robots Could Help People With Dementia

Alissa Sauer
By Alissa SauerSeptember 26, 2018

Every day we see robots making lighter work for humans. From assembly lines in factories to assisting doctors in operating rooms, to managing inventory. Now, a team of international scientists is exploring the ways robots can help people living with dementia.

Learn more about the role of robots in dementia care and why researchers are being careful to advocate them as assistants to human caregivers – not a replacement.

How Robots Can Relieve Dementia Caregiver Stress

As technology improves the quality of life for people all over the world, a team of international researchers is examining the ways robots can relieve caregiver duties and stress. Some can keep a watchful on eye on a parent or senior loved one for long-distance caregivers, help patients get in and out of bed and remind them to take medication.

Dr. Elizabeth Broadbent is an associate professor of health psychology at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. She says these robots are designed to help people with dementia stay in their homes for longer before needing to move into a memory care community. She also says these robots can help relieve caregiver stress.

“The burden on caregivers of people with dementia is very high… and caregivers often need a break during the day to get other things done. Robots can help provide extra care,” she explained.

Robots can also help combat senior isolation that affects many seniors coping with dementia. One robot, a Japanese baby seal robot named Paro, is being shown to help calm anxiety in people with dementia while keeping them company, serving as a virtual pet. Another robot named Mario has been built and programmed to provide companionship and help someone with dementia stay engaged in activities and events.

With individualized apps that promote social connection, the robot helps seniors with dementia feel less lonely.

The Important Role of Human Caregivers

Advocates and researchers acknowledge that there may be a role for robots in dementia care. James Hendrix, Ph.D., director of global science initiatives for the Alzheimer’s Association, says that “Caregivers of people with dementia carry a really heavy burden. If there’s a way we can lighten that burden for folks a little bit, make it a little easier for them, that’s going to help the person with dementia as well. Their care partner is just going to be that much more rested, that much more healthy and that much happier.”

However, there is no competing or replacing the importance of the human touch in dementia caregiving. Dr. Hendrix cautions:

“I don’t want to see that we totally impersonalize the care and support of people with dementia, that we warehouse them somewhere and they’re managed by robots. The robotics provide tools of support for the human caregiver, and we still have that human touch.”

What do you think of the use of robots in dementia care? Would a robot be helpful to you and your parent or senior loved one? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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Alissa Sauer

Alissa Sauer

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