Robot companion cats for people at home with dementia: A qualitative case study on companotics
Dementia, Ahead of Print.
The use of robot companion pets for people in care homes has been extensively studied. The results are largely positive and suggest that they are valuable in enhancing wellbeing, communication and behavioural aspects. However, there has been little research in people’s own homes, possibly due to the cost and complexity of some of the robot pets currently available. As dementia affects people in different ways, this study explores the effects of a robot cat for people in their own homes, without specifically investigating the effects on a particular symptom. We utilised a case study design to investigate the proposition that various factors influence the impact of a robot cat on the person living with dementia and their carer, including acceptability of the robot pet and acceptance of dementia and its symptoms. The qualitative analysis explores the similarities and differences within the data which were gathered during interviews with people with dementia and their families. This analysis revealed four themes: Distraction, Communication, Acceptance and rejection, and Connecting with the cat and connecting with others. These themes were synthesised into two overarching themes: the effect of the cat on mood and behaviour, and The interaction with the cat. We present the acceptability and impact of the robot cat on symptoms of dementia, with data presented across and within the group of participants. Our analysis suggests that benefits of the robot pet were evident, and although this was a small-scale study, where they were accepted, robot pets provided positive outcomes for the participants and their families.