Studies have shown that pets have many health benefits for people of all ages. For seniors, pets can be an important source of companionship, offering unconditional love. They also help keep older adults healthier, helping them to be more physically active, lowering blood pressure, and reducing the risk for heart disease. Pets just make people happy. That’s why many hospitals and long-term care facilities use therapy dogs to comfort and cheer their patients. But, could a realistic electronic pet offer the same kinds of benefits?
Realistic Dogs and Cats – Minus the Work
There have been robotic cats and dogs on the market for years, but they’ve been primarily marketed as toys for children. Now, though, some companies have begun making realistic dogs and cats designed to bring comfort to older adults, specifically those with dementia. The pets have soft, realistic fur so that they are enjoyable to pet. When petted, they blink their eyes, wag their tails, and meow or bark.
Robotic Pets Being Used in Long-Term Care Centers
Many long-term care facilities are using robotic pets to soothe anxiety and agitation in their residents with dementia. Many recognize that there’s no substitute for live cats and dogs, so they still bring therapy animals in when possible. However, when a resident is distressed in the middle of the night, it’s simply not possible to bring in a dog or cat. That’s where a robotic pet can come in handy.
A New York Times article describes the interaction between the patients of one facility with their robotic cats. The facility uses the cats to “warm up” the group space. The residents stroke and talk to the cats as though they are real. Sometimes they acknowledge that the cats are mechanical, but they don’t seem to mind. In one case, an elderly woman was frantically searching for her parents. Instead of giving her a tranquilizer, the staff gave her a robotic cat. The woman immediately calmed down.
It’s not likely that a robotic pet could take care of all your aging family member’s needs for companionship, nor could a live pet. However, it may bring them comfort, especially if they have dementia. They may be worth a try. But, in the end, what all people really need is other people.
If your aging family member is lonely, hiring a homecare provider to check on them once or more per day could make a real difference. A homecare provider can not only be a source of social interaction, they can also help with many daily tasks that get difficult as people age. A homecare provider can help with light housecleaning, prepare meals, and do laundry. They can also remind older adults to take medications. And, if your loved one has a real pet, a senior homecare member can assist with pet care, too!
If you or an aging loved one are considering Homecare Services in Skokie IL, contact the caring staff at Gentle Home Services. Call today (800) 860-9823.