Research & Publications
Jan 1, 2017
The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of an avatar virtual service animal on cognition, loneliness, depression, delirium, falls and restraint use in hospitalized older adults. The virtual pet speaks to the client, displays a full range of emotions and responds directly to client questions and touch. The study was conducted in a metropolitan teaching hospital. Participants on the intervention unit received the tablet based avatar virtual service animal for their entire hospital stay. Participants on the control unit received a daily visit from a nursing student. Measures (MOCA, 3 Item UCLA loneliness scale, GDS, and CAM) were administered upon study enrollment and prior to discharge. A total of 200 older adults hospitalized on two medical surgical units were enrolled, 100 who received the intervention and 100 controls. All patients were over the age of 65 (mean 80, range 65–96), English speaking, and admitted for a medical diagnosis. There was no significant difference in MOCA scores for participants on the intervention and control units at both study enrollment and study completion. On the intervention unit, there was a statistically significant difference in loneliness scores (p<0.001), and depression scores (p<0.001). There were no significant changes for all measures on the control unit. Fall rates, and hours of restraint use were statistically significantly lower on the intervention unit (p<0.001). There were too few incidences of delirium on both units to allow for statistical modeling. Study findings support the use of this innovative technology for hospitalized older adults.