Occupational therapists have experimented with a number of dolls and stuffed animals in the hopes of comforting and calming dementia patients.
This week, one P.E.I. care home made the headlines with its robotic cats. Providing the residents with these cats gives them something to love and care for. The response has been both encouraging and heart-warming.
Providing Dementia Patients with a Sense of Comfort
For those living with dementia, it can be a frightening and lonely experience, especially for those in care homes. However, one east coast long-term care home is doing everything it can to offer pet companionship.
As reported by CBC News, a care home located in Summerside, P.E.I., introduced eight very unique “pets” to its dementia wing. Creating a lifelike experience, the residents are able to care for sensor-activated robotic cats, providing them with a greater sense of purpose.
Tania McQueen is the occupational therapist leading this program. Following its introduction, she has noticed a significant improvement in the patients’ behavior. They have also needed less medication. When patients become agitated, the cats tend to calm them.
More importantly, when given one of these robotic cats, patients feel a greater sense of purpose. They are empowered, knowing that they must care for an animal. Best of all, residents do not need to feed it or worry about emptying a litter box. They just need to show it love — and that has been the most encouraging part.
Although the home does bring in live, therapeutic animals, the robotic cats provide a sense of comfort any time. Whenever a resident wants companionship, they’re there. This has been particularly beneficial when someone becomes agitated at one or two in the morning.
Companionship and Dementia
We have covered some related stories in the past, including Dolls and Dementia: The Nursing Home That Went Viral and Pets Make Great Companions for Individuals with Dementia.
Although these two encouraging stories are technically unrelated, they share a common denominator — a need for companionship.
For those who have just recently been diagnosed with dementia, you know that companionship makes a world of difference. In fact, having visitors can help patients with mild symptoms maintain greater levels of independence.
Although patients with severe Alzheimer’s may seem lost in their own mind, they are emotionally present. When a patient is able to hold a stuffed cat, there is an emotional connection that helps alleviate feelings of anxiety and isolation.
For people with dementia, their brain is affected in areas that influence perception, judgment, planning, and organization. In turn, this can quickly lead to feelings of fear, restlessness, and apathy. Their ability to communicate is also affected, impacting how they perceive and interact with the world around them.
Having that feeling of unconditional love, whether it be through a doll or a therapy dog, can help lessen some of the problematic symptoms associated with diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Give Your Loved One Something to Love and Care For
If you are caring for a loved one with dementia, why not invest in a worry-free alternative to a live pet?
This has been shown to be particularly beneficial among those who once had pets. For example, if your father once had a golden retriever, why not provide him with an opportunity to care for another? A stuffed animal similar to that beloved pet may spark a memory, or at least trigger warm, nurturing feelings.
There are many options on the market, some of which are specifically designed with dementia patients in mind. Memorable Pets, for instance, has gained worldwide attention for their selection of dolls and stuffed animals. This company offers Dolls 4 Dementia and a range of stuffed animals designed for people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.
If you’re concerned about your current level of cognition (or are concerned for a loved one), we invite you to learn more about the BrainTest® app. You may try this assessment tool in the comfort of your own home. Since this test can help you detect early warning signs of Alzheimer’s and dementia, early intervention becomes possible.