Carebot Tessa | The planning plant
In the Netherlands, around 270,000 people suffer from dementia. As a result of population ageing, this number will increase to more than half a million by the year 2040. Around 70 percent of people suffering from dementia live at home supported by informal caregivers, like family or members of their social surroundings. Robot Tessa supports these parties in the process. The Tessa project focuses on four key points to provide the best possible support.
1. Take charge of your own life
‘Good morning Mr de Boer, did you have a cup of coffee yet?’ At first glance, it is unclear where the friendly voice originates from. Meindert de Boer, human technology domotica advisor at care organisation Patyna, points towards a happy-looking flower pot on the table. ‘That’s Tessa’, he proudly nods. ‘Tessa is supposed to offer structure in the lives of people in the early stage of dementia. It is a little bit like a talking calendar; perfect for our target audience. Tessa reminds you of the 2.30 p.m. appointment you have at the hairdresser. Or that your granddaughter will visit you this afternoon. And last, but not least: when to takes your medicines. Simple cues to keep you in charge of your own life.’
2. A better continuity of care
Tessa offers people in the early stages of dementia simple cues to remind them to take their medicines, when to eat and drink, which social activities they have that day, and inform them of recent developments. ‘Agreements are made about these topics, and they are recorded in a patient file’, Laura Vuijk explains. She is a junior researcher at the iHuman Professorship of Applied Sciences. ‘It’s our goal to link the online patient file and the calendar to Tessa’s software. It is a way of lightening the workload of both formal and informal caregivers, and it adds to the continuity of care.’
3. Relieving informal caregivers
Tessa is present every moment of the day and she forgets nothing, it provides the patient’s environment with breathing space. ‘Especially in the early stages of dementia, a lot is asked of informal caregivers’, says Hetty Kazimier, project leader and senior researcher at the iHuman Professorship. ‘Because of the patient’s failing memory, informal caregivers spend a large amount of time on remembering appointments and sending reminders. This is something Tessa can easily take care of. It takes some of the worry away from informal caregivers. You no longer have to worry about your mother taking her medication on time. It is a great relief.’
4. Enabling by personalising
Would someone rather be addressed with their first or last name? Should Tessa ask questions, or does it work best if she only states the activity? To know how best to enable the user, Nursing students are doing field research to discover the clients’ wishes. Laura: ‘Tessa does not only give reminders, but she can hear the user’s response as well. We would like to offer a suitable reply to this; that is how you get a tailor-made response.’
How can a robot make sure that people in the early stages of dementia are enabled to live independently for as long as possible? Researchers from iHuman – Health Care Digital at NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences are trying to find the answer to this question. The Professorship is trying to implement Carebot Tessa in practice, together with students, development company Tinybots, software developer Lable, and care organisations Patyna and Noorderbreedte. Tessa’s practice test fase will start after this summer. Care organisation Patyna will then receive ten robots to be used by their clients. Care organisation Noorderbreedte will receive ten robots as well, for their clients living in sheltered housing.
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