Improving Quality of Life in Older People with Dementia Through Companion Robots: A Pilot RCT

Monday, 30 July 2012: 11:35 AM

Wendy Moyle, PhD, MHSc, BN, RN1
Marie Cooke, PhD, RN1
Elizabeth R. Beattie, PhD, RN2
Cindy Jones, PhD, RN1
Chrystal Gray, BA (Hons)1
(1)Research Centre for Clinical and Community Practice Innovation, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia
(2)Dementia Collaborative Research Centre, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia

Learning Objective 1: Apply the knowledge of robotic animals to a variety of practice situations to improve quality of life.

Learning Objective 2: Compare robotic animals and reading as a means of improving quality of life in people with cognitive impairment.

Purpose: Studies have reported improvements in quality of life, relationships and loneliness in older people who have interacted with companion robots (e.g. Kramer, Friedmann & Bernstein, 2009; Tamura et al., 2004). PARO, a therapeutic companion robotic seal, has been shown to have a psychological effect on people with dementia, improving their relaxation and motivation as well as improving the socialisation of individuals with others, including with caregivers. The aim of this research was to compare the effect of companion robots (PARO) to participation in a reading group on emotional response in people living with moderate to severe dementia in a nursing home environment.

Methods: A randomised crossover design, with PARO and reading control groups, was employed. Eighteen residents, with mid to late stage dementia, from one aged care facility in Queensland, Australia were recruited.  Participants were assessed three times on Quality of Life in Alzheimer’s Disease, Rating Anxiety in Dementia, Apathy Evaluation, Geriatric Depression and Algase Wandering Scales (revised) and once a week video observations of the intervention and control group activity. 


Results: PARO had a moderate to large positive influence on participants’ Quality of Life compared to the Reading group participants. The PARO intervention group had higher pleasure scores when compared to the Reading group.  Video observations demonstrated participants’ enjoyment when engaging with PARO. 

Conclusion: Findings suggest PARO may be useful as a treatment option for people with dementia; however, the need for a larger trial was identified.