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Robotic companion pets delight residents [and caregivers too]

PHS resident Arid with robotic companion pupOn this National Puppy Day, we share a story of the joy experienced by residents with dementia as they play with robotic companion pets. As well as moments of happiness, these cats and dogs are bringing them comfort, calm and companionship.

Just before Christmas, each PHS dementia care team received gifts of two Joy For All Companion Pets — a dog and a cat. These furry and charming robotic pets were selected by leaders of our annual DOVE Symposium, which trains our caregivers in the latest in dementia care.

There’s all the benefits of companionship and none of the mess. “It’s a happy medium!” says Ahna Lloyd, Life Enrichment Director at The Farmstead in Andover, MN. “It’s not a stuffed animal – it’s not a live animal. It’s perfect!”

“The residents in memory care are just loving them,” says Ahna. “They take ownership of the pets and say things like, ‘Oh, this is my kitty’ and bring the cat or dog into their apartments to take care of them.”

Watch as PHS residents react with joy and affection to these lifelike, furry companions!
Responding to human touch and interaction, Joy For All pets open up people’s hearts. “Many of our residents understand the pets are not real,” Ahna explains. “But I think it’s getting that response back: the pet encourages you to keep interacting.”

Resident woman with robotic companion puppyThe joy of playful interaction remains essential to quality of life for residents with dementia. At PHS we believe that while individuals may be severely affected by dementia, their spirits, regardless of their impairments, remain intact.
“The way we think of dementia, there are moments of joy, and that’s plenty, that’s enough,” says Ahna. “Without using medication, the pets help us in our care for residents by redirecting them, easing their tension, lifting their moods and bringing back positive memories.”
Innovative aging resources empower our caregivers “to create smiles in the eyes of the people we serve,” a Presbyterian Homes & Services (PHS) motto echoed by Nancy Schwartz, Director of Life Enrichment.

The technology suits a range of responses and abilities. “So, while you can set it on a table and just watch it or have it sit on your lap,” Ahna says, “you can also bring it right up to your face and say, ‘Oh, you like that? You like getting your head scratched? Okay, let me do that some more.’”

Ahna admits that even she and other staff members will play with the Joy For All pets. “I think they’re good for any age – for me, for older staff, for young kids, anybody! This is a niche market that’s blooming. It’s such a great concept. I can’t get over how simple this is, and yet when you start interacting with it, it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s so cool!’”

We at PHS are grateful to our dementia care experts and caregivers for embracing innovative and imaginative technology to bring joy to residents — and each other. 😉

“We Will” is a series that spotlights inspiring examples of teamwork at PHS. With God’s blessing, We Will work together to build a better, brighter future for the older adults we serve.

Do you know someone looking for more purpose in their work? Share the good news and the many opportunities to join our team at Rated #1 employer in Minnesota by Forbes!

Further reading:
Educating and equipping our staff to flourish in dementia care
“I Know You by Heart”: a book on dementia care authored by former PHS leader
Trust in God inspires person-centered care

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