Across My Desk…
Dr. Terry Powell
As many of us do on a daily basis, I happened to check my newsfeed on social media this morning. We also tend to provide “oooohhhhss” and “ahhhhsss” about a cute kitten video or a cute puppy video. After all, who can resist a feel good moment, right? This morning, as I was looking for those feel good videos, I came across one that was spectacular. This time, however, it wasn’t a puppy or kitten video but a video about helping those in need – those who are often forgotten during the holidays because lives become too busy.
The cutsie little video involves a robotic seal who provides much comfort to those with dementia or those who have no one to visit them within assisted living or within nursing homes. First, I am going to share this video with you, as I believe it to be worth researching and providing these Para robots to those who cannot hug another or are left behind and forgotten within a nursing home.
If you take time to review this video – you can agree that this little guy looks like someone even I could hug on occasion! This next video demonstrates an assisted living home that invited these little critters for the residents and their interaction with this little Para robot.
These Para robots were also used to help the elderly in Japan during the Tsunami.
Here, within the United States, we tend to use special therapy dogs who have gone through vigorous training. We’ve also heard of Hospice Cats – whether it has been for the benefit of Veterans or private citizens. With this in mind, I bring you to the purpose of my blog today.
In researching information about the robotic seal, I came across an article by Dr. Vallor (as stated by Johnston, 2015). In her article, she discusses our moral and ethical issues that arise by these very people are who are being cared for – is wrong. Wrong because of the lack of human contact and fears that these robots will replace the caregivers in charge of their care.
I agree that therapy dogs, cats and Para robots should not replace their caregiver, but in truth, how can this actually happen? We haven’t (nor has Japan) created a robot who can provide the required tasks of being a caregiver such as bathing, monitoring health, helping someone get dressed or helping someone get the much needed exercise to keep them as well as possible – whatever their current condition is. Feeding, so far is also not an option or available via robot or therapy animals.
Why can’t we use the tools we have – to help those in need? The therapy dogs – a tool. Hospice cats – a tool. Para robot – a tool. Each is unique in the service they provide but the one element common in all of these tools is “comfort”. Each of these tools provides some element of comfort to a human being for a short period of time. As stated by Angela Johnson (2011) – Para is providing caregivers and therapists a means to do their job “better” and in return – the patients have forgotten their troubles for a brief moment or two.
Our technology changes every day and as that technology changes and new ideas are brought to the forefront for evaluation, we are a nation of wanting to improve the lives of others. It is through analyzing, designing, developing, and implementing our technologies, that we are able to help those who need that extra cuddle moment or need a little cheer for just a brief time within their day.
Johnston, Angela. (2015). “Robotic seals comfort dementia patients but raise ethical concerns”. KALW. Web.