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Study Objective: The purpose of this study is to determine whether introducing a robotic companion cat into a long term care facility may improve affect and, subsequently, increase participation for residents with dementia, and to determine potential benefits for caregiver roles and relationships with individuals with dementia.
Background: The number of people with dementia is growing, and the behavioral and psychological side effects are negatively affecting the quality of life for these people as well as their caregivers. Additional research is needed to help develop and confirm the use of nonpharmacological treatment for dementia with therapeutic robots.
Study Subjects: Research was conducted at Bridgewater Retirement Community in the complete-care nursing households. We recruited 11 participants, ages 81-95,and all data was collected within each resident’s household and common area. All participants had a diagnosis of dementia, resided in a long--term care facility, and relied on assistance from caregivers for some or all activities of daily living.
Methods:Data was collected using a mixed-methods design that combined both quantitative and qualitative measures. Quantitative measures included a pre and post Cohen-Mansfield Agitation Inventory (CMAI) (Appendix A), completed by the household coordinators, as well as weekly behavior log and physiological indexes (heart rate and oxygen saturation) (Appendix B), used to objectively document our observations and interactions with the cat. These measures were used to determine the efficacy of a robotic companion on agitation. Qualitative measures included weekly observational data and staff reports as well as a final questionnaire for the household coordinators to summarize their overall impression of our study on the participants. These measures were used to determine the perceived quality of life of individuals with dementia and their caregivers. Use of psychotropic and pain medication was determined by review of the Medication Dispensing Record after the data was collected .
Results: We found a statistically significant reduction in agitation scores from the beginning of our study to the end, along with a statistically significant increase in oxygen saturation throughout the course of the study. There were no significant changes in heart rate from pre-intervention to post-intervention (Table 1). Qualitative data collected throughout the course of the study were sorted into categories and analyzed for emerging themes. The data for each participant for each interaction over the course of the study is displayed in Figure 1. Overall themes over the course of the study are displayed in Figure 2. We did not find any significant reduction in the use of psychotropic medications over the course of the study. The household coordinator’s responses to the final questionnaire were overwhelmingly positive and described the impact that the robotic companion cats had made on their residents and their caregivers.
Conclusion: The use of robotic companion cats enhances[KEN-k1] the well-being and quality of life of individuals with dementia living in a long-term care facility by providing companionship and interaction with their environment which helps to reduce anxiety and agitation. Robotic companion cats also reduce the burden placed on caregivers by providing a nonpharmacological intervention for agitation and loneliness. Due to our small sample size, it is still difficult to draw any major conclusions about the use of nonpharmacological therapy as an adjunct to pharmacological therapy in the long term treatment of dementia. Though these effects were not seen across all participants, the researchers believe that the impact these companion cats have had on a few individuals is significant enough to prompt future research and continue exploring other non-pharmacological options for improving the day to day life of an individual with dementia.
Funding for Research: Bridgewater Retirement Community provided funding to purchase the Hasbro’s Joy For All Companion Cat. The link is provided here: https://joyforall.hasbro.com/en-us/companion-cats
Marsilio J, McKittrick S, Garner M, Umbell L, Maiewski S, Wenos J. Effects of a robotic cat on agitation and quality of life in individuals with dementia in a long- term care facility. JMU Scholarly Commons Physician Assistant Capstone. https://commons.lib.jmu.edu/pacapstones/35/. Published December, 12, 2018.