When a senior suffers from dementia, it has a huge effect of on their life and those of their loved ones. And in the coming years, the number of people touched by the effects of dementia is only set to grow. One in three seniors will get some form of dementia, and the senior population is growing at a rapid pace as baby boomers age.
Do the math and it’s clear that our culture has every reason to work on finding better ways to provide care for dementia patients and resources to their families. One helpful resource some memory care facilities have found to make a difference is pet therapy. Access to dogs can be helpful to dementia patients in a number of ways.
For seniors with dementia who are unable to take care of a dog themselves, many programs bring trained therapy dogs into memory care facilities periodically so that residents can appreciate some of the benefits of pet ownership, without the responsibilities that come with it.
But dementia patients don’t just conveniently need the benefit of pets just at the moment therapy dogs come in for a visit, they get agitated and anxious at all kinds of hours of the day. Memory care workers know there are many times their patients could use that soothing influence when there’s no pet on hand to provide it.
Enter robot cats.
Why Robot Cats Work
Robot cats offer similar benefits to those that visits from actual pets do, but without the need to do any of the training or clean up that actual animals require. As such, they can be on hand at any time of day when memory care professionals or family caregivers feel they’re needed.
One common effect of dementia is bouts of agitation. Dementia patients often find themselves upset for a variety of reasons – it could be because where they are seems unfamiliar to them, they can’t find deceased or absent family members they expect to see, or for reasons they don’t understand. When these bouts occur, it’s often difficult for caregivers to find a good way to calm the patient down.
Robot cats do the job for them. Having something soft on their laps that seems to respond to their affection – the robot cats will close their eyes and purr in response to touch – distracts seniors from whatever was upsetting them and gives them something to care for and be comforted by.
Robot cats have existed for a while, but their price tag has only recently begun to put them within reach for average families and memory care facilities. You can now get a robotic cat for $100. That makes it easy for families to keep one in their home, and for facilities to invest in several of them.
You don’t have to spend time training them. You don’t have to clean up after them. You don’t have to spend money on vet bills and pet food. They don’t bark or meow at inconvenient times. You will have to replace their batteries from time to time, but that’s a much smaller task than those associated with taking care of a real pet.
The lack of required care and maintenance means they don’t add any work to the probably already too long to-do list of a dementia patient’s caregiver.
All this isn’t to say that real therapy animals aren’t also worth considering – therapy dogs bring their own share of benefits. But if you’re not up to the task of taking care of a real animal, or simply aren’t in a position to do so, robotic cats are an affordable alternative worth considering.