Dublin hospice provides life-like robotic pets for dementia patients combating social isolation

'Very realistic."
DUBLIN, Calif. (KGO) -- A Dublin nonprofit came up with a perfect solution to provide seniors with moments of levity and companionship. For 10 months, senior care and hospice facilities have been closed to visitors to stop the spread of COVID-19 to vulnerable populations.

Hope Hospice shutdown their volunteer program on March 16, 2020 amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Since then, seniors and patients living with dementia are not able to have any family visitors, pet therapy, and other volunteer services.

"Unfortunately, with the onset of COVID we have noticed an increase in social isolation especially with our living with dementia patients There is a lot of fear, there's a lot of confusion, and there's a lot of agitation along with the loneliness," said Gia Barsell, Manager of Dementia Services and Community Education. "Not only do they have a difficult time understanding what is going on when we try to explain to them why their loved ones can't see them. Also, they tend to be especially prone to isolation."

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After thorough research, Hope Hospice felt compelled to find a way to help their patients. Through a generous donation from NorCal Minis, a club for Mini Cooper enthusiasts. Hope Hospice was able to purchase twenty robotic pets for their senior patients.

Hope Hospice and Health services purchased twenty robotic pets from Joy For All Companion Pets. The innovative company has created life-like, interactive, robotic pets to prevent social isolation. Each pet was purchased for $130.

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"The decision behind purchasing the pets was kind of a pivotal program from the volunteer department since our volunteers couldn't visit in person. We were trying to find a substitute for the patient that would keep them calm and decrease their social isolation." said Nikki Tildesley, Manager of Volunteer Services at Hope Hospice. "The cats come in a variety of colors and they are robotic. They are very realistic, they purr for you and they move their heads, open and close their eyes."

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The animatronic pets are gifts for the patients and will not be shared by other patients amid COVID-19.

Hope Hospice has applied for grants in order to purchase more robotic pets for their patients.

"We will continue to purchase the pets and it is a great program for our dementia patients and other patients that are feeling isolated," said Tildesley. "We will continue to do it as long as we have funds to buy them."

The animatronic pets were well received by patients and the life-like cats were able to provide comfort and companionship to many hospice patients.

"Our hope is that thee little connections that our living with dementia patients can make with some of these pets are creating little moments of joy," said Barsell. "We know that we can't completely get rid of the social isolation, but we can do is take the opportunities that we find to create little moments of joy for them in their lives."

Hope Hospice and Health Services is a nonprofit that relies on the kind donations from the community. To donate, visit the Hope Hospice and Health Services webite.
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