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The value of animatronic robot pets for residents of Care South Homes

Graham Brittain, Director of Residential Care at Care South

At Care South we are continually looking for innovative new approaches to evolve and enhance the excellent care we provide to residents at our homes across the South of England. We recently introduced robotic pets at two of our care homes, Kenwith Castle in Abbotsham, near Bideford and Templeman House in Bournemouth and their impact has been extremely positive.

The special animatronic pets respond to touch and speech and these interactive qualities have been shown in a number of research studies to reduce isolation, promote sensory engagement and stimulate memories.  The robot pets are used to complement the regular visits we have from live animals via our work with organisations such as Caring Canines and PAT dogs, as well as more unusual creatures such as alpacas, guinea pigs, rabbit and birds of prey.   Whilst these visits are immensely enjoyed by our residents from time to time, animatronic pets allow residents to enjoy similar benefits at any time, and for longer periods.

Animatronic pets were first introduced at Kenwith Castle six months ago, and the home now has a robot dog called KC and Keno, a pony. Meanwhile, Biscuit the dog was presented to Templeman House earlier this year. The new pets have proved a huge success amongst the residents, providing stimulation, comfort and companionship. Whilst the residents readily recognise that the pets are not real, their life-like appearance and interactive nature encourages residents to engage with them.

The potential benefits of robotic pets has been shown by research into PARO, a robotic therapy seal first developed in Japan.  The work with PARO demonstrated that they can reduce stress and isolation, promote social interaction, facilitate emotional expression, and improve mood and speech fluency in residents living with dementia.

Early indications from our own care home trials tend to support this research. The residents love having the pets close at hand, so they can stroke them and give them lots of cuddles. Their engaging nature encourages the residents to interact with them and they have certainly become a talking point for our staff, residents and their families.

Residents can often be found petting the robotic pets and reminiscing with one another about animals they owned previously and in childhood. Since their introduction to the homes, staff have seen improvements in some residents’ social interactions, particularly for those living with dementia. The robotic pets have also proved beneficial to residents in end of life care, who have taken comfort from the chance to touch and stroke the dogs, with carers noting the soothing effect they have and the pleasure displayed on their faces.

Following the successful trial of the robotic pets, we plan to roll them out to our other care homes across the south of England, which cater for those with dementia. As two of the first homes in the UK to introduce these pets and highlight their use for our residents in the media, the response from the general public has been overwhelming and we have received many enquiries from relatives, friends and indeed other care homes keen to source the pets for themselves. We are proud to be leading the way and sharing our experience with innovative new care practices.

 

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