Hope Hospice

Hope Hospice and Health Services is using animatronic cats to help lessen the impact that pandemic-related isolation has had on its dementia patients.

Joy for All Companion Pets from Ageless Innovation, both cats and dogs, look, feel and sound like real pets. When stroked, the battery-powered pets become alert and make lifelike noises and small movements.

The Dublin-based Hope Hospice said clinical studies have shown that the robotic pets can help alleviate the negative psychological effects of isolation and loneliness in older adults, especially for dementia patients.

“No one expected quarantine orders to have carried on this long,” said Nikki Tildesley, volunteer services manager at Hope Hospice. “But here we are, nearly a year into this pandemic, and our patients continue to go without the benefit of face-to-face companionship visits from our volunteers, and in many cases, even the patient’s own family. They are truly suffering.”

Studies show the robotic pets can decrease anxiety and agitation and improve overall well-being in adults suffering from dementia, resulting in greater socialization and fewer episodes of delirium, while decreasing the need for psychotropic drugs.

With a donation from NorCal Minis car club, Hope Hospice bought 20 of animatronic cats in December. The cats, which come in three versions – orange tabby, tuxedo, and silver with white mittens – cost about $100 each. The nonprofit plans to seek funding in the coming months to expand the program, including the addition of some animatronic lap dogs.