Animals are often known for their therapeutic benefits, especially within the VA, which promotes service and companion dogs for Veterans. However, some patients may not be able to care for an animal but still need some therapeutic outlet. This is where modern technology shines.
Covered in black and with white mitts is the lifelike robotic cat fondly named Rufus, who has Vibrapurr built within. Vibrapurr is the technology that gives him an authentic purr, that sounds and feels just like a ‘real’ cat. He also can open and close his eyes, lift his paw, open his mouth and move his head and body.
A current Sioux Falls VA Community Living Center resident, who has found noticeable joy and comfort from having a robotic companion, has named his cat Rufus (pictured above).
While playing, the highly engaged Veteran mentions what a “good kitty” Rufus is and at other times, “He is a little rascal!”
The Veteran’s nurse, Erika Henrich, mentions, “Often times, this Veteran and many other Veteran patients need encouragement with their daily care.”
She shares the phrase, “You can spend time with Rufus as soon as you finish your shower!” is quite the incentive. The Veteran under her care looks forward to spending time with Rufus after showering and completing other hygiene tasks.
After self-care, the Veteran is wheeled over to his bed where Rufus is waiting. “There’s my buddy,” says the Veteran. It’s apparent he feels a sense of purpose when caring for his robotic friend.
The ease of care and convenience paired with the robot’s state of the art technology makes for the best possible experience for older adults in the Sioux Falls Community Living Center and for those living in senior communities or aging at home. Seeing how the Veteran’s mood improves when interacting with Rufus is extremely heartwarming.
Alex Sebby is a program specialist at the Sioux Falls VA medical center. Story edited by Shirley Redmond, Public Affairs Officer