Warning, Alz caregivers, warning–the robots are coming, but they’re here to help.
A processor-driven revolution in dementia care is taking place.
While technology has focused on development of one kind of robotic use or another (service, say, or rehabilitation), the latest sophisticated design from Spain weaves a few applications together.
Meet RobAlz, the first robot designed to help patients in the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease. Call it a “robot nurse.”
Designed by a team of Spanish researchers from Robotic Labs, University Carlos III of Madrid, in collaborating with the FAE (Alzheimer Spain), Robalz has various functions, which include: entertainment (telling stories, news, music and film); stimulation (providing memory exercises and various therapies, musical or artistic, to delay cognitive decline); personal assistance (helping in everyday life and reminding the patient of the activities to be performed, the location of objects or choosing what clothes to wear); safety and security (an alarm indicates if the user shows any unusual behavior).
The robot will generate periodic reports to help health care providers.
Other robotic applications, according to Psychology Today, include:
Mainly used in physical rehabilitation. Example: Cyberdyne’s HAL system of robotic prosthetics for people with motor problems.
Robots providing direct care. One example developed for use in some German nursing homes is the Care-o-bot developed by Fraunhofer IPA. The latest version of the Care-o-bot handles drinks, plays memory games with residents, helps them with documentation, and even chants with residents.
Another service robot being tested in German nursing homes, Casero, can carry one hundred kilos, making it ideal for heavy tasks such as carrying laundry baskets and monitoring corridors to discourage wandering residents.
Robots acting as “avatars” for nursing home residents and caregivers to interact with people over long distances by conveying the sense of personal presence. Combined with telephony and long-range remote control, telepresence devices permit nursing home caregivers to monitor residents and staff members. Examples: Giraff and VGo.
The emotional robot
Companion robots are intended to interact with people for social and therapeutic purposes, particularly in treating different kinds of special needs patients. That includes dementia patients, though the benefits of robotherapy are still being weighed. Examples: Aibo, Yumel, PLEO, and Huggable.
Of course, the high-profile PARO has been hogging the limelight, because, well, baby seal. Cuteness. You know.
PARO is a companion robot developed by Dr. Takanori Shibata, a researcher at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology. The therapeutic robot has the appearance of a baby harp seal, with soft white fur, and weighs the same as a newborn baby.
PARO can show surprise, happiness and anger and will cry if it is not receiving enough attention. It has tactile sensors and moves its tail and flippers and opens its eyes when petted. It responds to sounds, can learn its name and learns to respond to words its owner uses often.
At Griffith Health Institute in Australia, Professor Wendy Moyle and her team examined the impact of PARO on quality of life, mood, anxiety and wandering in people living in residential care. One German nursing home is currently running a trial phase.
Take a look at the video here.
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