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The Benefits of Animal Therapy for Dementia Patients

Within the United States, approximately 5.7 million people are living with dementia. Alzheimer's and dementia care in the U.S. cost an estimated $277 billion – more than the entire economy of Finland. However, a much cheaper alternative (animal therapy) has been found to reduce patient stress, improve relaxation and motivation as well as stimulating interaction/socialization between patients.

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The Benefits of Animal Therapy for Dementia Patients

Within the United States, approximately 5.7 million people are living with dementia. Alzheimer's and dementia care in the U.S. cost an estimated $277 billion – more than the entire economy of Finland. However, a much cheaper alternative (animal therapy) has been found to reduce patient stress, improve relaxation and motivation as well as stimulating interaction/socialization between patients.
6M
people impacted
$1.7T
potential funding
the problem
Nature and Context

For patients in the US with Alzheimer's and Dementia, it has been found that animal therapy can help to improve the behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD) and reduce the burden of care and medical services including medications. Animal Therapy has been found to reduce patient stress, improve relaxation and motivation as well as stimulating interaction/socialization between patients and caregivers.

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ideas
Ideas Description

Paro is pretty adorable. It has big black eyes that open, close, and follow your movements. It’s about the size of a large cat, and when you pick it up, it’s heavier than you’d expect. It weighs exactly six pounds, so it feels like you are holding a newborn baby. It charges by sucking on an electric pacifier. Inside its fuzzy, white exterior, the seal has sensors that detect touch, sound, light, heat, and movement, and it reacts in different ways. It can recognize its own name.

“We started using it with the residents and a lot of them think it’s real,” says Kathy Craig, another therapist at the V.A. “They’ll bark at it, they'll pet it, they'll sing to it. We find it works better with people with dementia because if the residents are aware that it’s not real, we find that sometimes they don’t engage with it as much.”

Craig thinks it’s a useful tool for residents who are antisocial, agitated, or sad.

“We'll bring out the Paro robot and set it down and they'll start talking to the Paro, they'll talk to other people, it'll brighten their mood. And if they’re maybe at risk of wandering and getting lost, instead of that happening, they might sit down with Paro for a while and spend some time with it.”

Craig says they’re even doing a study on whether seal time can replace anti-anxiety medication.  Nursing and therapy staff have noticed Paro also brings out a sense of nurturing and caring in patients. The veterans smile as they stroke Paro’s fur. They ask questions about it, call it baby names, and even flirt with it.

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