Robots may help people with dementia living in isolation


People with dementia will eventually need caretaking, which can be a full-time job filled with unique stress.

Characterized by memory loss, moodiness and communication difficulties, dementia is a difficult condition with which to live independently, so caretakers assume many of the day-to-day tasks.

But for people living in remote locations and suffering from memory loss, there are concerns about their ability to stay in touch and report on their condition.

A robot to the rescue

The Giraff, a little over three feet tall, is a motorized robot that facilitates a two-way video call. It is remote-controlled through an ordinary computer and allows carers and relatives to interact with the patient from a remote location.

The Giraff is piloted in remote Scottish islands as part of a project called “RemoDem.” This pilot develops and tests ways for helping people with dementia living in remote locations.

“For some with dementia, it can at times be a lonely life, particularly if their relatives are unable to visit them regularly,” explained Gordon Jamieson, chief executive of NHS Western Isles.

Robot provides ability to check-in on a loved one

Emelin Collier, head of planning for NHS Western Isles, explained what the robot can do:

The Giraff is simple to use; it is kept in the home of the person with dementia, and the controls for the robot are with the person's relative or carer. The relative could call into the robot to effectively waken it up, and the person with dementia would not have to do anything at all. The caller's face would appear on the screen, and the caller could then navigate the robot through the home of the person with dementia to check that all is well, check medication has been taken, food has been eaten, the person has washed and dressed or just to provide reassurance or have a chat.

For people who want – or need – to continue living independently as long as possible, the robot companion can extend that time by providing reassurance for others to see the health of the person even from a distance.

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