Profesor Wendy Moyle from Griffith University with ‘Gerry’ who will help people with dementia living in care communicate with their family
A high-tech trial of a robot aiming to improve communication for people with dementia living in residential care by using Skype technology is underway in Queensland.
The Griffith University project aims to facilitate a conversation between the person with dementia and their family using new telepresence robot technology.
The robot, known as Gerry, displays the face of the Skype user on a human head sized screen and records the two-way conversation for the research team to analyse.
Director of the Centre for Clinical and Community Practice Innovation at the Griffith Health Institute, Professor Wendy Moyle said: “Gerry’s main aims are to improve quality of life for the person with dementia and to increase our understanding of this very prevalent condition.”
“Gerry is able to increase the person’s human interaction in a very simple way. An easy to use, totally portable technology, Gerry will allow families to easily see and connect with each other,” she said in a statement.
Lifestyle manager at RSL Care Talbarra Retirement Community, Robin Pickworth, said technology often scare their residents but Gerry is different.
“This technology offers a great way for them to easily connect with their family members. We are very excited about the forthcoming trials,” Ms Pickworth said.
The robot’s basic technology was developed in Denmark as a tool for heath professionals to communicate remotely with patients.
Prof Moyle said she has high hopes for a more therapeutic version of the robot for use in care facilities.
“Our research has shown that people with dementia living within a nursing home may typically only receive between two and 28 minutes of human interaction within a 24-hour period,” she said.
However, by improving the ease with which family members can communicate with their loved ones, Prof Moyle said they hope to raise increase the number of contact minutes.
“Family members who may live far away from mum or dad, or cannot make the drive will be able to wake Gerry up in order that he can initiate the conversation between the two parties,” Prof Moyle said.
“Once the person with dementia has been informed by Gerry, that person only needs to push one large button to get started.”
A family member can then chat with their loved one and ask them to do things such as show the flowers in the garden made possible by Gerry’s ability to be moved by the family member from their home, she said.