I was asked recently at a seminar I gave on feeding difficulty in older people with dementia about the use of robots with people with dementia. I have to say that I stumbled over my words a bit as I was not very sure what to say; there is something a bit 'off' about the concept of unleashing robots on older people with dementia. They are already confused and robots are hardly likely to reinforce reality. But can the use of robots - in this case 'PARO Therapeutic Robot' - have any benefits for older people with dementia? This was the subject of an article from Norway by Jøranson et al. (2016) titled: 'Change in quality of life in older people with dementia participating in Paroactivity: a cluster-randomized controlled trial' and published in JAN.
As explained by the authors: 'The aim of this study was to investigate effects of robot-assisted group activity with Paro on quality of life in older people with dementia'. The control group received treatment as usual while the intervention group had two 30 minute sessions of activities with Paro twice weekly for 12 weeks. Quality of life and use of psychotropic medications were measured as outcomes. The study was carried out in nursing homes (NH).
Quality of life was maintained in the intervention group while it deteriorated in the control group and less psychotropic medication was used by the control group. In the words of the authors: 'Pleasant and engaging activities, such as group activity with Paro could improve QoL. We believe interaction with Paro in group sessions to be an accessible non-pharmacological activity in NH facilitated by nursing staff. Activity with Paro seems to be especially suitable for NH residents with severe dementia to maintain QoL and nursing staff should particularly focus on engaging this group, often challenged by apathy and withdrawal.
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JØRANSON N., PEDERSEN I., ROKSTAD A.M.M. & IHLEBÆK C. (2016) Change in quality of life in older people with dementia participating in Paroactivity: a cluster-randomized controlled trial. Journal of Advanced Nursing doi: 10.1111/jan.13076