weekly blog--one for the ages
It came as no surprise that my mother-in-law was diagnosed with Sundown Syndrome following a recent hospital stay. The term refers to a state of confusion associated with dementia or Alzheimer’s that occurs in the late afternoon and spans into the night. Symptoms can include anxiety, aggression, ignoring directions, paranoia, difficulty separating reality from dreams, and pacing and wandering.
The exact cause of this behavior is unknown, but fatigue, low lighting, increased shadows, disruption of the body’s “internal clock,” and the presence of an infection such as a urinary tract infection, may aggravate the situation.
When sun downing occurs in a care facility such as the one where my mother-in-law is recuperating, it may be related to the flurry of activity during staff shift changes or the lack of structured activities in the late afternoon and evening. Staff arriving and leaving may cue some patients to want to go home or to check on their children, or other behaviors that were appropriate in the late afternoon in their past.
The chronic shortage of professional care workers only adds to the burden care facilities face in providing patient support. The crisis is most acute in Japan where government projections show that by 2025, the country’s first baby boomers will have turned 75 and 7 million people will be suffering from some form of dementia.
Accordingly, the government projects that it won’t be able to avert a dementia crisis without an additional 380,000 senior care workers. And despite the government’s best efforts to bolster the numbers of senior care workers with foreigners, the plan has been a bust with the national caregiver examination proving a major hurdle to pass.
Another grim reality is that 19 to 38 percent of foreign nurses who pass the exam opt to leave the industry and return home, citing tough work conditions and long hours.
Enter the care robot. In Japan there are robots that mimic cute furry animals, small children, human shaped “humanoids” or full-sized lifting and walking robots. One that offers great potential is the Telenoid. It specializes in friendly communication for dementia patients who live alone or in nursing homes. The goal is to improve communication with family and staff as well as serving as conversation stimuli.
At first glance the Telenoid looks like a bald, expressionless, unfinished robot from a horror movie. However, it is designed to mimic the gestures as well as to broadcast the voice of remote users, and is intentionally designed to be unisex, ageless and easy to hug in a person’s lap.
The Telenoid is maneuvered remotely using an external tablet, and the robot’s mouth and head moves to mimic conversation. From a psychological standpoint the austere exterior encourages recipients to harness the power of imagination to envision the Telenoid as a positive image of the person they are actually talking to, or someone they want to talk to.
A research study by the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development showed that, with robot care, seniors’ autonomy, sociability, mood and communication improved along with a better quality of life over all.
One last thing…On the horizon, a way to prevent Alzheimer’s using a drug under development to treat stroke patients: https://scienceblog.com/505298/stroke-drug-may-also-prevent-alzheimers-disease/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+scienceblogrssfeed+%28ScienceBlog.com%29