We have already blogged about the Alzheimer’s epidemic.
There are already more than 5 million affected patients, and Alzheimer’s is now the 6th leading cause of death in the US.
Caregivers spend an average of 70 to 100 hours per week providing care to an affected family member.
Alzheimer’s patients cope better in familiar surroundings. They get worse more quickly when socially isolated. It is more cost effective to keep affected patients at home for as long as possible, avoiding expensive residential care.
However, many caregivers need to go to work, and cannot be at home with their affected family member 24/7.
New programs using robots to provide social contact and even supervision for Alzheimer’s patients on their own at home may provide a cost effective solution to this problem.
Scotland’s National Health Service is putting robots into the rural homes of some dementia patients in a pilot scheme to help them to continue to live independently.
A relative or carer – potentially hundreds of miles away – can drive the machine around the house to check that everything is all right. The pair can also have a chat through a two-way video call system.
The robots are about 5ft tall, on wheels and have a TV screen instead of a head.
A relative or carer can connect to the robot with a computer from any location. Their face will appear on the screen allowing them to chat to the other person.
The operator can also drive the robot around the house to check that medication is being taken and that food is being eaten.
Ongoing studies are showing that robots can provide affordable personalized cognitive stimulation, motivation and companionship to dementia patients, and potentially keep them living independently longer.