Monday, March 26, 2018

Robots: What caregivers, patients think (Alzheimer’s Dementia Research, Video 1:53)

Whenever I write about robots being used to support caregiving, someone usually comments that robots can never replace people. Of course, that is the point. They can’t replace people, but they can provide services that allow people more time to be caregivers. They give patients more opportunities to be supported and stimulated in daily living activities. They allow technology to accurately assess and evaluate patient progress. Older adults with dementia gain a degree of independence with robots that encourage then to complete activities. 

Probably the best evaluators of how successful robots can be are patients and caregivers themselves. Few studies have investigated in-depth perspectives of older adults with dementia and their caregivers following direct interaction with an assistive prompting robot. This research on robots included older adults with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s dementia.

The adults had difficulty completing activity steps with their family caregivers. They were prompted by a tele-operated robot to wash their hands in the bathroom and make a cup of tea in the kitchen. Caregivers observed interactions. Individual interviews followed and categorized into themes.

Three themes summarized responses to robot interactions:

1)   Contemplating a future with assistive robots
2)   Considering opportunities with assistive robots
3)   Reflecting on implications for social relationships

While older adults with dementia welcomed opportunities for robots to help in daily activities, they still did not want to have one. Caregivers, on the other hand, were more open to opportunities robots provided. Several wanted to have a robot, possibly to decrease frustration, stress and relationship strain, and to increase social interaction via the robot. A negative consequence could be decreased interaction with caregivers.

In this video, meet Ludwig, a robot that helps older adults with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. In addition to providing company and entertainment, Ludwig also monitors patients’ symptoms, cognitive decline, and depression. By the way, Ludwig is a robot and cannot replace a real person.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.
Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog

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