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TOM STEVENS | August 31, 2023
A wealth of evidence supports the health benefits of keeping pets: increased life span, exercise, improved mental health, and a sense of purpose. But for older adults and those with disabilities, the responsibilities and expense of owning an animal can be overwhelming, and caregivers are often forced to take on those burdens themselves. To make matters worse, dementia patients can pose a physical threat to live animals.
What alternate solutions exist for those who cannot safely or practically keep a live pet? Fortunately, information technology and robotics have advanced to the point that realistic, robotic emotional support pets are becoming a legitimate option. As research in this area advances, experts have found that robotic emotional support animals can offer a myriad of benefits similar to those associated with live pets. Robotic companions can also help caregivers.
Robotic Emotional Support Animals in Practice
Imagine the following scenario: An elderly woman with dementia suffering from Sundowner’s Syndrome relies on a strict daily regimen established by her caregiver. This routine is a delicate dance, balancing the patient’s meals, medication, and personal care, all designed to keep her as relaxed as possible.
One afternoon, as the caregiver prepares dinner, the caregiver realizes that the patient’s beloved dog is nowhere to be found. She runs outside to look for the dog, leaving the patient to fend for herself. The patient is agitated over her missing dog and suddenly alone in a kitchen with pots and pans boiling.
Fortunately, the caregiver finds the dog outside, but the patient is now too overwhelmed to eat or take her medication. Despite the caregiver’s best efforts at redirection, it’s a rough evening for everyone.
How a Robotic Emotional Support Animal Can Ease the Role as Caregiver
As any experienced caregiver knows, consistent emotional support for patients is critical. A robotic emotional support animal can significantly ease a caregiver’s role in this respect. Robotic companions replicate many benefits traditional pets provide – affection, responsiveness, and companionship – without the associated caregiving demands, such as feeding walking, or veterinarian visits.
The Benefits of Robotic Emotional Support Animals
The owners of pets are known to enjoy
Reduced impact of depression
Lower blood pressure
Reduced triglycerides and cholesterol
Longer survival rates after a heart attack
30% fewer doctor visits after age 65
Longer life spans
Robotic companion animals provide genuine comfort, mirroring the emotional connection that living pets provide while lightening the caregiver load. Uplifting conversations about the robot companion elevate the moods of both patient and caregiver, potentially reducing feelings of burnout. In embracing such technology, senior care and assisted living facilities can foster an environment that makes staff and residents all smile a little more.
Mental Health And Managing Fear Author
Founder & Behavioral Scientist
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