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Last Updated:  Friday, 7 March, 2003, 17:14 GMT
Robot helps dementia patients
Care home
The numbers of elderly are increasing
A robot which shows Alzheimer's patients the face of their caregiver or doctor could make it easier to offer them care.

A screen on the robot can be linked via a broadband connection to a computer hundreds of miles away in a family home or doctor's surgery.

This form of communication has proved far more acceptable to the patient than a telephone call during trials at a residential home in California.

It is a breakthrough event when people with dementia can tolerate another form of engaging them in life
Loren Shook, Silverado Care Centre
The company that makes the machine are hoping to increase its role to include wheeling the patients around the home, or even taking their temperature or blood samples.

This technology would be based on robots currently used in operating theatres.

Burden rises

As the number of older people in the population increases, the number of patients with dementia is also rising, placing a huge burden on healthcare systems.

The machine's designers believe that it could allow some patients to live at home with less direct input from doctors.

Loren Shook, who runs the care home used for the trial, said: "This technology enables health care professionals to care for people in remote locations at a fraction of the time it would normally take. We anticipate that the robot will pay for itself."

On the whole, the robot has been accepted by many patients with advanced dementia, who are prepared to conduct a conversation with the screen.

Loren Shook said: "The older you get, the more disagreeable you are to change.

"To our delight, some just pointed to the robot and laughed - others talked to it."

She added: "It is a breakthrough event when people with dementia can tolerate another form of engaging them in life."

It was suggested that the cost of leasing a robot would be in the region of $3,000 a month.

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