It’s no secret that pets bring such joy to life. Who doesn’t love to snuggle with a furry kitten or play with adorable dogs?
Plus, animals don’t judge our failings – they are just happy to see us and interact with us, which makes them great companions.
But, a real pet requires a lot of care, and for seniors living in nursing homes or other type of care facilities – it’s not a possibility.
Which is why the new, very lifelike stuffed and robotic animals can be especially good for people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Dementia pet toys can provide the love of a real animal without the work.
Stuffed and Robotic Therapy Animals Can:
- Encourage interaction which is a very important thing
- Can reduce the anxiety, depression, irritability, and loneliness that comes with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
- Can help to provide a sense of purpose
- May reduce the need for psychoactive medications and pain medications for those with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
- Are non-threatening and won’t provoke anyone’s pet allergies
- May help increase nutritional intake in people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease
These dementia gifts can be used in place of therapy dolls or a baby doll – which many Alzheimer’s patients and seniors with dementia (especially women) love to hold.
…doll therapy was a positive intervention for the person living with dementia who was the participant in this research. The findings indicate a reduction in behaviours of concern related to the need for attachment and a considerable decline in levels of anxiety and agitation. There was extensive ongoing improvement in social interactions and communication.National Library of Medicine
Benefits of Stuffed Animals For Dementia Patients
Family members may be surprised to learn about the many benefits that a stuffed or robotic pet can provide for their older adults with medical conditions related to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Increased food intake: It’s common for seniors in the late stages of alzheimer and dementia to lose weight.
In fact, “weight loss is so common in individuals with AD (Alzheimer’s Disease) that it is listed as a symptom consistent with the diagnosis by the National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke/Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Association Work Group“, according to a study by McKhann et al., in 1984.
It is thought that this weight loss comes from several factors:
- Forgetting to eat
- Repetitive activities
However, in a 2002 study by Edwards and Beck at Purdue University, researchers found that when fish aquariums were viewed by Alzheimer’s and dementia patients on a daily basis for two weeks, and then switched to a weekly basis for six weeks, the patients gained an average of 1.65 pounds, and required less nutritional supplementation.
Reduced need for psychoactive medications and pain medications: A 2017 study by Petersen et al., on how stuffed and robotic pets helped with behavioral care in five dementia care units showed “decreased stress and anxiety in the treatment group and resulted in reductions in the use of psychoactive medications and pain medications in elderly clients with dementia.“
Reduction of anxiety, depression, irritability and loneliness: In addition, pulse rate decreased in the group that interacted with the dementia robotic pets.
The 2017 study authors (Petersen et al) report that, “Pulse rate and pulse oximetry have long been validated as indicators of stress and anxiety. As stress or anxiety decrease, the pulse rate is decreased. Both of these are autonomic responses that fluctuate regardless of cognitive ability. Pulse oximetry readings improve as stress decreases.“
The study concluded that, “The treatment group improved and maintained improvements in GSV, pulse oximetry, and pulse-rate over time.“
Robot and stuffed pets for dementia encourage interaction: Some of the benefits of using these types of pets for dementia care include: “reducing negative emotion and behavioral symptoms, improving social engagement, and promoting positive mood and quality of care experience“, according to a study by Hung et al., in 2019.
The authors reported that,”Studies in Norway, US, and New Zealand also found that the social robot helped in the reduction of physical and verbal agitation.“
All of these benefits can help to improve the overall quality of life for the person suffering from these diseases and ease depression.
No doubt, that these can be some of the best purchases for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
If you need further proof of how beneficial these pets can be, here is a video of them from BeingPatient.com:
Realistic Stuffed Pets For Dementia Patients
There are many realistic stuffed animal toys these days that can look and feel like real pets and for seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease – these plush animals can provide great comfort and a calming effect for the older adults.
Here are just a few that you can choose from:
Stuffed Pet Rabbit
- THE DUTCH LOP EARED RABBIT: Bring home your very own Dutch Lop Eared Rabbit from Living Nature. This adorable, large fluffy rabbit plush pet is the cutest addition to your soft toy collection. Cuddly by nature and accurate by design, collect all your favourite woodland animals in premium soft toy versions for hours of fun with your new furry friends.
Stuffed Pet Puppy
- DOODLES THE LABRADOODLE: Our adorable 13″ dog plush toy! With soft fur, sparkling eyes, and a floppy body, this realistic stuffed animal is perfect for cuddling. It can sit or stand, adding extra fun to playtime. Made from high-quality materials, Doodles is durable enough for any adventure. This Labradoodle stuffed animal is sure to steal your heart!
Stuffed Chocolate Lab Dog
- CHOCOLATE LAB — 16″ from nose to tail. Our Chocolate Lab loves to curl up and sleep after playtime. Features an endearing face and lightweight, soft, plush body that can be posed. Unlike other cats and dogs, Memorable Pets fits nicely on your loved ones lap, and has short-length fur that is easily cleaned
Stuffed Pet Kitten
- MEET SOCKS: This 15″ striped tabby cat plush is the ideal addition to any cat lover’s collection. With lifelike details and a floppy body, this realistic cat stuffed animal brings joy to all ages. Snuggle up with it at night or use it as a decorative accent – this plush cat toy is a must-have! Don’t settle for less; get your very own stuffed cat that looks real today!
Real cats, of course, can be wonderful pets for seniors but for those suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, the care of an animal may just be too much to handle.
So, using a stuffed or robotic one can be a wonderful substitute.
Realistic Robotic Pets For Dementia Patients
There are several kinds of stuffed and lifelike robotic pets on the market today (and more pet companions being developed).
Some of the larger and more innovative companies are Tombot, Joy for All (Ageless Innovation), Aibo, and Zoomer.
Read on to get more details on some of the most popular pet types and the companies that make them, as well as an overview of the robot’s capabilities.
Tombot Robotic Dog
The Tombot robotic dog is really new on the robot pet market and they seem to sell out quickly.
The company says, “Using groundbreaking technology, fabrics, and animatronic techniques, Jim Henson’s Creature Shop brought the Tombot puppies to life with uniquely life-like expressions, behaviors, and quality.“
These cuties a super realistic. They blink, “speak”, blink, move their head and ears, and make puppy sounds.
They also come with sensors in their bodies that allow them to respond when touched.
They even respond to voice commands, such as “sit up.”
Remember that the Jim Henson Creature Shop had a hand in developing the robot and you know how lifelike they can make any creature seem! If you watch the video in the section above, you can see just how realistic the dog looks and acts.
Joy For All Hasbro Ageless Lifelike Toy Cat (Ageless Innovation)
- Cat-like movements & sounds: our revolutionary vibrapurr technology gives the cat an authentic purr that sounds and feels just like real purring. A real cat would, our companion pet cat is able to open and close its eyes, lift its Paw, open its mouth and move its head and body. The companion pet cat also has synthetic, soft, brushable fur inspired by real feline breeds.
- RESPONDS TO TOUCH: Meet your new BFF! Zoomer Playful Pup is an interactive dog that responds to your touch! Give your pet, snuggles, cuddles and belly rubs and he’ll “woof” in delight!
Sony Aibo Dog
Sony has a contender in the robotic dog category, called the Aibo Dog. You can see it in the video in the section above (Benefits of Robotic Pets For Dementia And Alzheimer’s).
The Aibo Dog uses artificial intelligence (AI) technology that allow it to remember up to 100 people and their preferences, according to a story by Bridget Carey, on CNet.
The robot also has cameras on its back and built in sensors that help it “remember” its surroundings so it learns how to get around in the house.
The more a person interacts with it, the more the Aibo’s personality changes as it learns what its owner is looking for, in terms of playing and the reactions that the person wants from a pet.
Despite looking more robotic than the Joy for All animals or the Tombot Puppy, Ms. Carey reported in her CNet story that, “You know it’s a machine, but there’s something about it that compelled me to give it praise when it nudged up against my leg, or pet it when it whimpered in a corner.”
Robotic Pets For Seniors (Without Dementia)
Robotic pets can be great for seniors, even if they aren’t suffering from dementia. Having a “companion pet” has far reaching impacts on health (both physical and emotional) and mortality rates.
Loneliness and social isolation can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA)
The HRSA website reports that, “Poor social relationships were associated with a 29 percent increase in risk of coronary heart disease and a 32 percent rise in the risk of stroke.“
A story in the New York Post highlighted how lonely seniors can be.
In the story, a woman received an Ageless Innovation Joy for All Robotic Dog as part of a “new statewide pilot program by the Department for the Aging (DFTA) that distributed mechanical dogs and cats to 60 seniors with the aim of easing loneliness.“
The lady said, “I know it’s mechanical, but when you walk past it, it says something to you, and when you live alone, it matters.”
Plus, she has some health concerns and doesn’t have to worry about spending money on the dog (other than the initial purchase) or cleaning up after it.
How Much Does A Robotic Pet Cost?
You might be thinking a robotic pet sounds great, but it’s got to be expensive, right? Yes and no – depending on the company that is selling it.
We’ve compiled a list of the better quality, more realistic robot animals, which are going to be pricier than a toy robot such as the Zoomer Dog.
Still, when you consider there is no food or upkeep to pay for and you will never have a vet bill for a one of these animals, the cost of a robotic pet isn’t that much.
Tombot Puppy Price
The Tombot puppy is currently listed on their website as selling for $399 (marked down from $449). They are not available at the time of publishing this article, though.
There is a wait list that you can get onto for no cost, however. The website does not say when these robotic pets are expected to be ready for their next batch of owners.
Joy For All Hasbro Ageless Innovation
The Joy For All Companion Pets Golden Pup retails on Amazon for just under $140 as of this writing. The company’s Companion Cats sell for between $110 and $130 currently.
What Does An Aibo Dog Cost?
At around $2900, the Aibo Dog is the most expensive of these robotic pets.
But, keep in mind that the Aibo uses AI technology, cameras, and a range of sensors to figure out its surroundings and learn how to interact with its owner. That type of innovation doesn’t come cheap.
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