TherapAlz is a stuffed animal to help Alzheimer’s patients

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TherapAlz is a stuffed animal to help Alzheimer's patients
Image credit: TherapAlz

Alzeheimer’s disease and dementia are scary health issues. A group of university students is trying to help patients with its TherapAlz stuffed animals.

The students are from the University of Illionis. They formed a group of six to develop TherapAlz which is a stuffed animal that helps patients suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, The Daily Illini reports.

They developed a prototype stuffed fox that then they submitted for the James Dyson Award. This is a contest that runs in 18 countries and is open to university studets and recent graduates who are studying engineering, industrial design and product design.

The TherapAlz stuffed fox has been created after lots of interviews with caretakers and caregivers on what are the best therapeutic methods for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients.

The prototype fox, which is still under development, will purr and slowly vibrate as if its breathing while the patient pets the toy. “The main purpose is to bring comfort and provide some form of stability to the patient or the person who’s petting it. We wanted to stimulate the benefit of actually petting a pet, but without the cost of having a pet”, says Ivy Lei, sophomore in LAS and team member.

One of the goals is to make a therapeutic stuffed animal that costs less than 50 dollars and to be able to help lessen the stress to both patients and caregivers and caretakers. The students are well aware that people need to nurture and help others. So Peachy the fox, as is the name of the TherapAlz stuffie, is the one to fill that void for patients.

The team is also working on additional features for the interactive stuffed fox. “One of the big problems with Alzheimer’s patients is that, if they get off the bed, they have a very great risk of falling. So we were thinking about implementing something in the pet so that when they get off the bed, the simulator will notice it and then notify the caregiver when the patient takes off. … That’s the easiest way for a patient to get hurt”, Lei says.

The group is hoping to get some much needed extra feedback from the competition. It also aims to have a polished prototype by winter break which it can give to people to get even more feedback.

“There are other products in the making that also target patients with dementia-related disorders, such as Paro the therapeutic robot. However, one Paro costs five thousand dollars, money that caretakers will not be able to afford. TherapAlz will not cost over fifty dollars, for we believe in products that are both effective and cost-efficient”, the team notes in their James Dyson Award application.

It’s a great idea and we wish them all the best.