Health bosses in Sheffield have come up with an unusual way of helping people with dementia - providing them with robot companions that look like toy seals.
Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust has become the first health trust in the country to use such support.
It has introduced PARO Seal - an advanced interactive robot which responds to sounds and can show emotions such as surprise and happiness.
When stroked it moves its head and body and opens and closes its eyes. Left untouched, PARO will call out to engage the person holding it, but will also ‘sleep’, encouraging the patient to settle.
Occupational therapist Claire Jepson said: “PARO helps to calm and relax service users and can distract and reassure them if they are distressed by situations such as having their blood taken or being assisted with self-care.
“The seal is not intended to replace human contact and interaction, but rather to complement and enhance it.
“It is not just a stuffed toy, it is much more sophisticated and interactive than that, and it is fascinating to see how people engage with it.
“It is helping improve service users’ communication and interaction. One man, whose condition means he is often dealing with high levels of distress, sat in the garden with PARO and, when his wife visited, she couldn’t believe how contented he was.”