Dear Donna:

My dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s several years ago. The past year or so he has really suffered from agitation. We’ve struggled to find ways to help him calm down.

One thing that we found helps is my daughter’s cat. When the cat sits with him and he is petting her, he seems more content. Of course the cat isn’t always willing to sit still with dad!

I’ve noticed ads and infomercials for stuffed animals that look very life-like. But I think the more realistic ones are a little on the expensive side. We thought before we purchase one we would see what an Alzheimer’s expert like you has to say about this idea.

Do you think a robotic pet would have the same result as a real one?

Kindest Regards,


Pets to Help Soothe Agitation in People with Alzheimer’s

Dear Carole:
What an interesting question! And a good observation.

Pets have definitely been proven to be effective therapists. They are used in hospitals, nursing homes and even in hospice. For people with Alzheimer’s, they have a calming effect. They can also lift the spirit. Just the act of stroking a pet’s fur can help to decrease agitation. Research also shows it can aide in lowering blood pressure.

Furry friends are a common sight in nursing homes and assisted living communities that specialize in Alzheimer’s care. Now that technology has created such life-like pets, they are increasing in popularity too.

While many families have found them to be a helpful tool in improving the quality of life for a senior with Alzheimer’s, others believe there is an ethical issue in using them. Namely, they believe it compromises a senior’s dignity. That is a dilemma you will need to discuss with your family.

Here are two resources you might find helpful in learning more:

  • Joy for All Companion Pets: This organization has both cats and dogs that look and seem like the real thing. Made by Hasbro, they are used in nursing homes and senior living centers.
  • Paro: This is another robotic pet used in senior care. It looks like a seal and can interact and learn a senior’s behaviors. This one has been around longer and falls under the category of being a true robot. And at a price tag that is fairly significant. But you might benefit from reading some of the research on their site.

I hope this helps, Carole!