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Olathe senior living facility uses robotic pets to help residents with dementia

Posted at 5:15 PM, May 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-24 18:15:36-04

OLATHE, Kan. — Santa Marta Senior Living Facility introduces Bella and Benedetto, interactive robotic seals that provide therapy for its residents. 

“They have 100 sensors, five different kinds,” Santa Marta Nursing Director Kelli Demanline said. “They react to light, touch, sound, temperature, posture.”

Demanline said the therapeutic medical devices, which originated in Japan, can help calm people who have dementia.

“Sometimes with dementia they have behaviors, wandering, they become agitated, anxious. This will help redirect those behaviors if we sit them with a paro,” Demanline said. “They will sit more instead of pacing. It decreases their anxiety and decreases loneliness, so we start using these when we see behaviors escalating.”

Wright, who has a family member who has dementia, has seen the impact from the seals.

“I've watched other people, residents, use them and they're very attached to them,” Wright said. 

Healthcare leaders hope this can be an alternative before using medication.

“Medications all have side effects, so trying to use something other than medications is definitely more beneficial for the residents,” Demanline said. “Studies have shown there's a 30 percent decrease in the use of antipsychotic medications when we use a paro.”

Santa Marta is one of two facilities using paro pets in the state of Kansas.

“We use them with group activities. We use them one-on-one with any kind of anxiety or depression; it decreases loneliness,” Demanline said. 

Although it’s only been six months working with the paro pets, healthcare providers said they plan on implementing these devices in activities long term.

Their next step is getting their staff trained to become certified robot therapists for its dementia community.