Robotic pets are 'purr-fect' way to help those with dementia and learning difficulties in Cambridgeshire - as residents of a Wisbech care home can testify
As Cambridgeshire County Council announces plans to use new technology to help people with dementia and learning difficulties one Fenland care home is already ahead of the game.
The council this week announced it has launched a pilot using robotic cats to explore how the technology can improve people's well-being.
The electronic pets, which also include dogs, purr or bark, roll over, play and respond to touch just like the real thing - but without the need for feeding and clearing up after them.
The furry companions are part of a suite of technologies the council is using to improve people’s wellbeing and also to help them stay independent, safe and well.
Lucy Forrest, Cambridgeshire's technology enabled care team manager, said: “As part of the pilot to explore enabling technologies we’ve invited people to test the cats and to give us their feedback.
“Though they are fun, in no way are they a gimmick or a toy, they do have a serious role to play in reducing people’s stress and anxiety and potentially trigger happier feelings. The reaction we have received has been amazing, bringing a smile to people’s faces and we’re now investigating whether they can improve people’s wellbeing over the long term. The good news is they’ve had an immediate impact and actually bring out people’s caring side.”
As exclusively reported in the Citizen in March this year Rose Lodge in Wisbech has fundraised to buy robotic pets for their residents and now have four cats and a dog in residence.
Jane Ritchie, the home's activities co-ordinator, said: "The pets have proved a huge hit with residents, they all love them. The reaction we have had is wonderful, the residents enjoy stroking and grooming them and have them sit on their laps. We even have pet baskets for the 'animals' to curl up in."
Two of the cats and the dog were purchased with cash raised through a 24 hour 'comicathon' carried out by Chrissie Calver, the home’s activity assistant.
She created a 24-page comic book using random words given to her by the residents as script ideas, to raise money for the ‘pets’.
A further two cats were purchased thanks to a donation from a resident's family.
A spokesman for Cambridgeshire County Council said the technologies they are looking at will mean people can stay in control of their lives and include things that help with everyday tasks and situations, such as special cups that remind people to drink, or motion detector lights to help people move around their home in the middle of the night.
They can also help save lives and reduce serious injury, with tools like the lifeline system that allows an individual to raise the alarm if they have a fall or finds themselves in a difficult situation.
Councillor Anna Bailey, chairman of the adults committee said: “Technology can play an important role in helping people to remain independent. I have heard of lots of examples where the technology that Cambridgeshire County Council has implemented has reduced the worry and stress for carers and families and helped people to stay independent. This often means people can stay in their own home near to family, neighbours and friends, which is where most people want to be - it really can make an incredible difference to people’s lives. It’s helping Cambridgeshire County Council and its partners meet the growing demand for our services at a time of unprecedented budget challenges and actually helping to reduce demand for formal care services.
“We are also looking at how we can transform our learning disability services, for example by giving people opportunities to learn workplace skills which increases confidence, wellbeing and independence".
Watch Cambridgeshire County Council's video here: https://youtu.be/n15x18wHUQE
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More by this authorSarah Cliss