November 30th, 2017 | Innovative Care
Innovation in Alzheimer’s and dementia care is going high-tech with PARO, the FDA-approved therapeutic robotic seal. PARO’s sensors detect light, sound, touch, posture and temperature, and respond to human interaction much like a living creature would. Research shows that petting and interacting with this biofeedback seal helps reduce stress and depression in people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
Legend Senior Living™ is leading the way for biofeedback therapy. Specially trained staff use the PARO seal to soothe residents struggling with anxiety, agitation, wandering, loneliness, and even physical pain. Dr. Sandra Petersen, a nursing professor at the University of Texas at Tyler who specializes in geriatrics and mental health, oversees the Legend™ PARO program.
PARO works through neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to adapt by forming new neural pathways. Certain stimuli, such as interaction with a PARO device, help form those neural pathways so the brain can reconnect old memories and build new ones. Just as exercising a muscle helps build new tissue, exercising the mind helps build the brain.
PARO is a viable alternative to psychotropic medications, studies have shown. Seniors are more prone to adverse reactions with benzodiazepines and antipsychotics, two types of drugs frequently used to address behavioral and emotional symptoms of dementia. Benzodiazepines (like Xanax or Valium) pose an increased risk of falls and fractures, while antipsychotics (like Abilify or Seroquil) carry an increased risk of stroke. PARO, in contrast, has no side effects. Participating in three PARO biofeedback sessions per week allows some people to reduce their dose of psychotropic medication – and in some cases, forgo them altogether.
Biofeedback therapy with PARO is just one of many innovative, science-backed memory care therapies used at Legend Senior Living. Others include:
- Life histories, thorough records of each resident’s individual experiences, accomplishments, and memories to help staff build meaningful connections
- Aromatherapy to stimulate appetite and encourage alertness during the day or relaxation at night
- Lifestyle vignettes, personalized interactive stations designed to spark memories through familiar activities
Legend Senior Living continues to lead the way in neuroplasticity programming for memory care, with a goal of eventually introducing a PARO device into all of its memory care communities.