New technology uses healing power of hugs

Wearable technology for people with dementia, which was piloted at Pobl Group’s Llys y Seren care home in Baglan, is up for a national award.

The “HUG” nominated as 2018’s Outstanding Dementia Care Product, was developed by a research team from Cardiff School of Art and Design at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

Pobl Group reports each HUG features a simulated beating heart and is highly personalised with audio related to the recipient and developed with their family members. Typically it features voice recordings, favourite songs and ambient sounds that can help cultivate feelings of happiness and familiarity in people with advanced stage dementia.

The HUG also appears to stimulate nurturing behaviour and related positive emotional responses including love and attachment, which give life purpose, bringing pleasure and comfort. It is in no way meant to replace human hugs, but rather to stimulate interaction with others and allow someone in the advanced stages of dementia to re-experience and re-express their deep human need to love and nurture.

The prototype HUG was developed for a female resident at Llys y Seren care home and had some amazing results.

Llys y Seren manager Karen Rogers said “There was an almost immediate and significant improvement to her wellbeing and quality of life. It moved me to tears. She was out of bed for most of the day, eating better, her dexterity and general health had improved as had her verbal communication and ability to socialise.”

Professor Cathy Treadaway, who leads the team that developed HUG, said “We are delighted to have been nominated for this award and to have reached the finals of the competition. The design for HUG was developed from our AHRC research partnership with Pobl and we acknowledge the important support of residents, staff and management that enabled the design research to take place.”

There has been considerable interest in HUG from health professionals working in end of life care, stroke rehabilitation and neurodegenerative diseases, cancer care as well as for people living with advanced dementia. Further development and testing of HUG is ongoing and a larger trial is underway with the NHS in Wales thanks to funding from Welsh Government.

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