Essex invests in robo-pets to provide needed comfort to care home residents affected by dementia during COVID –19

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Remarkable results have been seen by health and care staff in Essex who are trialing the use of robo-pets with one care home resident speaking to her carers for the first time in 18 months.  

The resident from Admirals Court care home in Leigh-on-sea hadn’t spoken for 18 months until she was given a robotic cat.  When the cat was placed on her lap, she stroked the interactive animal and said the word ‘beautiful’ – much to the joy of staff at the home.

Health and care leaders as part of the Mid and South Essex Health and Care Partnership have invested in robotic cats and dogs having recognised the impact lockdown was having on some care homes residents providing them with comfort, interaction, and stimulation in the absence of visitors.

The positive impact has been so great that over 200 more have been purchased to provide more support for people affected by dementia.

resident at Collins House with Cat

A resident at Collins House with a robo-cat.

Dr. Jose Garcia-Lobera, local GP and Chair for NHS Southend CCG said:

“It is well known that pets often soothe people and make a person happy with a sense of purpose. Dementia patients frequently become agitated, anxious, and frustrated and could benefit from a pet, but would have difficulty in managing the safe care of a real animal. Research has shown that an effective, drug-free way to soothe a dementia patient is to give them a soft toy they can interact with.”

The animals move, purr and bark just like the real things without the vet bills and need for daily walks.

Irene Anderson, dementia care coordinator at the home said: “It’s been amazing.  Now she has the cat all day long and we’ve named her ‘Whiskey’.  I go in and ask how they both are and she smiles and tries to speak and says hello.  It’s really amazing how she is interacting with it.”

Irene Lewsey, Head of Transformation & Mental Health commissioner said:

“Introducing the dementia robotic cat and dog has shown to provide comfort for people living with dementia. It’s a battery-powered cuddly fake cat that purrs, meows, and moves. It also responds to touch when it's petted and hugged. During this COVID emergency where people are unable to visit their relatives, they provide much-needed comfort.”