Robots to assist daily activities: views of older adults with Alzheimer's disease and their caregivers

Rosalie H Wang, Aishwarya Sudhama, Momotaz Begum, Rajibul Huq, Alex Mihailidis
International Psychogeriatrics 2017, 29 (1): 67-79

BACKGROUND: Robots have the potential to both enable older adults with dementia to perform daily activities with greater independence, and provide support to caregivers. This study explored perspectives of older adults with Alzheimer's disease (AD) and their caregivers on robots that provide stepwise prompting to complete activities in the home.

METHODS: Ten dyads participated: Older adults with mild-to-moderate AD and difficulty completing activity steps, and their family caregivers. Older adults were prompted by a tele-operated robot to wash their hands in the bathroom and make a cup of tea in the kitchen. Caregivers observed interactions. Semi-structured interviews were conducted individually. Transcribed interviews were thematically analyzed.

RESULTS: Three themes summarized responses to robot interactions: contemplating a future with assistive robots, considering opportunities with assistive robots, and reflecting on implications for social relationships. Older adults expressed opportunities for robots to help in daily activities, were open to the idea of robotic assistance, but did not want a robot. Caregivers identified numerous opportunities and were more open to robots. Several wanted a robot, if available. Positive consequences of robots in caregiving scenarios could include decreased frustration, stress, and relationship strain, and increased social interaction via the robot. A negative consequence could be decreased interaction with caregivers.

CONCLUSIONS: Few studies have investigated in-depth perspectives of older adults with dementia and their caregivers following direct interaction with an assistive prompting robot. To fulfill the potential of robots, continued dialogue between users and developers, and consideration of robot design and caregiving relationship factors are necessary.

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