Socially assistive robot enabled services for persons with Dementia

Area of study

Dementia care

Project title

Socially assistive robot enabled context based services for sustainability of long term emotional wellbeing of persons with Dementia.

Our partners

We engaged these with these organisations during the project:

  • City of Whittlesea (CoW) – Based on the pilot trials with dementia participants in City of Whittlesea we broadened the scope of the field trials to include nursing homes, retirement villages and home-based care.
  • Alzheimer's Australia
  • Brotherhood of St Laurence - 900 consumers across Victoria (majority involved people with dementia)

Devices used

Socially assistive robots and other smart devices

Project overview

This research reports on the successful pilot trials funded by Alzheimer Australia in 2012. The research used seven socially assistive robots to conduct:

  • nine trials with Persons with Dementia (PwD) and their care givers in home-based care
  • six dementia care trials in residential aged care facilities.

For the past four years we’ve conducted research and field trials of socially assistive robots with Persons with Dementia and their caregivers in home based  and residential care. The trials included preventative and proactive care services for Persons with Dementia and their caregivers.

The social robots have the ability to collect context and location based data: verbal (e.g. speech), non-verbal (e.g. facial expressions, emotional responses, gestures), multimedia (e.g. video streaming) and sensory based (e.g. blood pressure, heart rate).

The pilot trials helped to:

  • breakdown technology barriers
  • establish the potential for improving the emotional wellbeing of people with dementia
  • provide respite to partners.

The socially assistive robots delivered ‘personalised’ and interactive  services to each human participant. For example, singing and dancing to songs, reminders, phone calls, video streaming, quizzes, reading the news and storytelling.

The robot’s personalised services offered the following benefits to the user:

  • sensory enrichment (singing, dancing)
  • resilience and coping (reminders)
  • social connectedness (phone calls, video streaming)
  • utility (quizzes)
  • comfort (news, storytelling)
  • memory retention (reminders, quizzes).

The robot / services helped to:

  • improve the quality of engagement between care givers and residents in nursing homes
  • build capacity of nursing homes staff by providing additional services
  • support remote data collection
  • monitor and manage people with dementia
  • Reduce the stress level of caregivers in nursing homes.

The robots provided diversion therapy services to people with dementia in group and one-to-one sessions, using multiple communication methods: voice, touch panel, facial expressions and gestures. As the relationship between the social robot, person with dementia and their caregivers evolved, the context and location based services were adapted.

Questions

The project raised these questions:

  • Can services provided by social robots be adapted to meet the needs of people with dementia in a sustainable manner to they have a positive impact on participants’ long-term emotional wellbeing?
  • How can the health care data collected by the robots can be used by care providers for long-term remote monitoring, assessment, treatment and management of people with dementia?
  • Given the technical interconnectivity between social robots in different locations or homes, what kind of knowledge sharing mechanism will enable social connectedness and develop  virtual dementia friendly communities?

Benefits

This project helped to:

  • develop an alternate strategy for capacity building and reducing cost of dementia care
  • improve the quality of engagement between people with dementia and caregivers, leading to improved home and residential care environments
  • improve delivery of user-centred dementia related diversion therapy services
  • promote the development of sustainable assistive robot enabled services for dementia knowledge sharing, remote assessment and monitoring.