Robotic dog Tiny brings big smiles to residents

Robotic dog Tiny brings big smiles to residents

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SMALL WONDERS - Bolton Clarke Cabrini staff with resident Gertie (seated, centre) cuddling Tiny.

SMALL WONDERS - Bolton Clarke Cabrini staff with resident Gertie (seated, centre) cuddling Tiny.

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HE MAY be Tiny, but this toy pooch is bringing big smiles to aged care residents in Sydney's Westmead to residents at Bolton Clarke Cabrini.

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HE MAY be Tiny, but this toy pooch is bringing big smiles to aged care residents in Sydney's Westmead.

In fact the little bundle of joy - a robotic dog - is just one of the many wellbeing initiatives including a set of headphones, a wedding dress and a shoe polishing table bringing joy to residents at Bolton Clarke Cabrini.

Behavioural support specialist Elisabeth Elder worked with staff and residents recently to implement the changes, which she said have delighted residents and visitors alike.

Tiny the robotic Fur-Real Friends dog has brought new joy for resident Gertie, who grew up in Germany during World War II and was agitated for much of the time.

Elisabeth worked with staff and Gertie's daughter to find a solution that would improve her wellbeing.

"Gertie's daughter said she just wanted to see her Mum smile," Elisabeth said.

"Staff noted Gertie responded well to pet therapy, so they arranged to introduce a Fur-Real Friends dog.

"Gertie named the dog Tiny, after a pet she once had, and her daughter bought a collar while staff arranged a bed, bowl and brush. Tiny has become Gertie's constant companion, and best of all she is smiling much more. Her daughter says she's a 'new woman'!

In the memory support unit, a resident whose first language is Italian and who no longer speaks English was often distressed.

A set of headphones delivering Italian music have her clapping in time, and she is also joining in activities including flower arranging.
For another resident who rarely moved from her chair, a shoe polishing station gave her new purpose as she cleaned shoes and returned them to their owners.

Residents also have an office desk to work at, a dressing table with seat where many like to spend time, an area to fold clothes, a bookcase with sensory items, a cot with a sleeping baby doll and a wedding dress, which has become a popular conversation starter.

"Making the environmental changes has made a real difference," Elisabeth said. "Residents who previously didn't speak are now interacting, and others who were often agitated are engaged in new ways. Staff say the atmosphere is much calmer, and families are also excited and say visits are more relaxed."

Bolton Clarke (formerly RSL Care + RDNS) acquired Cabrini in December and is a not-for-profit provider of independent living, health and aged care services operating nationally.

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