Interactive soft toys to soothe residents of nursing homes with Alzheimer’s

For less than two months, the nursing homes of Athies and Épehy in the Somme have been using interactive stuffed animals to reassure and break the isolation of people with Alzheimer’s. A less expensive alternative to another device, a therapeutic robot with artificial intelligence.

The first plush appeared in November in the Athies nursing home. A cat, able to purr and move its front legs. “When it was introduced, even residents who normally interacted very little became interested in it.“, testifies the director of the establishment Aurore Lavallard. A month later, last December, another cat and an interactive dog are acquired by the Ehpad d’Épehy in the Somme, also directed by Aurore Lavallard.

These are devices to fight against the withdrawal into oneself and the isolation of certain residents suffering from disorders. “We use them in small groups for activities where our residents can pet them, cuddle them“, testifies the director of Ehpad. “This allows them to remember good memories with their own animals, even if pets are allowed with us, people are not always able to take care of them.

The establishments plan to acquire additional interactive stuffed animals, the cost of which amounts to 150 euros, so that the residents can use them individually, in the event of anxiety in particular.

Interactive soft toys have the advantage of reconnecting people with cognitive disorders to temporality and relationships with others. Particularly in the case of people affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

Originally from Abbeville, Aurélie Lieuchy Ségur is a nurse, head of a home care service, with a specialized Alzheimer’s team. She is also a trainer in the use of a therapeutic robot called Paro, used all over the world, and in France since 2018.

This robot was designed in Japan some 30 years ago and looks like a small white baby seal, soft and with cajoling eyes. Attributes that make him a mascot very quickly adopted in the establishments where he is presented.

Paro is an emotional therapy robot with artificial intelligenceexplains Aurélie Lieuchy Ségur. It is able to adapt to the reactions it will calculate in people who use it.”

Paro has twelve sensors, distributed over its fins, nose, head and whiskers. When we cuddle him, he shows signs of joy. If we take care of it less, it emits a very soft sound, recorded from real baby seals. A way to attract attention discreetly and affectionately.

These interactive objects have the advantage of having predictable reactions unlike pets, which also have positive effects on people with Alzheimer’s.

Robots and stuffed animals cannot show aggression, you cannot be scratched or bitten like with a real cat or dog. With a baby seal, there can be no reference to a traumatic past with an animal encountered during its life.“, specifies Aurélie Lieuchy Ségur.

It’s a magical object, when I meet skeptical teams, as soon as we put it into service, we see the impact it has on residents who get their hands on it.

The nurse remembers an episode with a resident of an Ehpad in Cateau-Cambrésis in the North: “She didn’t speak at all. After some time spent with Paro, this lady began to exchange a few words with him, while the medical team had never heard the sound of her voice..”

For other residents, the therapeutic robot can calm them down and help them fall asleep without the use of medication.

These benefits mean that it has been recognized as a medical device since April 2021. Its cost is not given: 8,000 euros. But the establishments can include it in their care budget, and have it financed using subsidies.

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Interactive soft toys to soothe residents of nursing homes with Alzheimer’s


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