Robotic companions aid dementia care in East Sussex

6th November 2023
Sheryl Miles

In East Sussex, an initiative using lifelike robotic pets to support individuals with early-onset dementia has been introduced.

The county council's RoboPets programme provides these individuals with robotic cats or dogs, aiming to offer comfort and a sense of companionship.

Following the scheme's launch in April, 50 robotic pets have been placed in homes throughout the region, reflecting the council's commitment to innovative care solutions. Carl Maynard, lead member for adult social care at the council, has welcomed the scheme's positive reception.

Dementia, commonly marked by memory loss and difficulty in remembering recent events, is symptomatic of several brain diseases, with Alzheimer's being the leading cause. In East Sussex, nearly 9,500 people were reported to be living with dementia in 2019.

The robotic pets have not only helped to alleviate anxiety among clients but also have provided much-needed relief for carers, serving as a tool for engagement and conversation.

The robotic pets have proven beneficial not only in offering solace to anxious clients but also as catalysts for conversation, thereby alleviating the strain on caregivers. Claire, a social prescriber involved in the project, shared a poignant experience, noting the immediate bond formed between the recipient and the pet who immediately engaged with the new addition, naming and caring for it as they would a living pet.

Encouraged by the positive impact observed since the programme's roll-out, the council's Occupational Therapy team is in the process of identifying an additional 50 clients who might find solace and health benefits from such companionship.

As the project nears its end in April 2024, an assessment will be undertaken to determine its cost-effectiveness and to consider the potential for broader deployment of the robotic pets based on their impact on health and wellbeing.

The scheme will directly approach those deemed eligible for participation.

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