The beautiful Lillian M. in the company of her Ageless Innovation's Joy For All Companion Pet, Mollie. The Memory Compass had the honor of supporting Lillian and her daughter Jan as they navigated through dementia.
My mom, Lillian M, lived a full, happy life to the age of 99, but struggled in her final years with dementia in an assisted living community. Despite my twice daily visits, she was lonely and increasingly anxious. I have two golden retrievers, and until the COVID shutdown, they accompanied me on my visits each day. A dog lover all her life, she missed them and the unconditional love pets provide.
We first learned of the Joy for All realistic robotic dog (there is a cat and bird available also) at the Center for Healthy Aging near St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis. My mom was nervous at those appointments when I left to meet with the social worker, but when the geriatrician placed another dog from Mollie’s “litter” in her arms, she was thrilled. Her tears turned to smiles. So, I decided she might like a dog of her very own.
I was so right.
Mollie was my mom’s best friend (after me, of course) for five years. Mollie gave her someone to talk to, to sing to (“I Love You a Bushel and a Peck” was her favorite song, one she had sung to us as children), to stroke, to care for, and to worry about. My mom realized that with her dementia, she no longer was able to or needed to care for me; our roles had been reversed, and she mourned the loss of the mothering, caretaking role she had loved, embraced, and at which she was extraordinarily good.
"It quickly became apparent that Mollie helped her feel NEEDED and VALUED, which significantly contributed to her positive outlook."
My mom always made sure Mollie was comfortable and warm, and that the door was closed when we left her apartment, so Mollie couldn’t “escape.” I soon learned that arguing with her whether Mollie was real, or could walk or eat, was not helpful to either of us, so I made sure Mollie had a blanket up to her neck, the TV was on, and that she was not too close to the edge of the couch. Once my mom left a sign on the door--written in eyeliner--that warned staff not to let Mollie escape! My mom often took her to lunch, dinner, crafts, or happy hour, and Mollie was a hit with her tablemates, the staff, and other residents. They loved Mollie too, mostly because they loved seeing my mom smiling. Just holding Mollie and responding to her barks calmed my mom. She was the only one who understood what Mollie was saying or asking; for example, Mollie apparently often asked my mom to scratch her ear! And my mom gladly complied, feeling needed.
Everyone knew Mollie. She was a great conversation starter and kept my mom connected to other residents. When she was anxious, upset, or confused, I would redirect her to Mollie, and she would calm down. This was especially important when I had to say goodbye at the end of our daily visits. Not only did it assuage my guilt and sadness at leaving, but once I placed Mollie in her arms, my mom forgot about my departure and was totally focused on talking to Mollie so I could quietly slip out of the room, at peace because I knew my mom was content. So, Mollie was also a blessing to me.
Because she sometimes tried to share her ice cream and Ensure with Mollie, there have been three “Mollies.” When one got too ragged or sticky, I convinced my mom to allow me to take her for a “grooming,” where I substituted a newly groomed Mollie and hid the predecessor. I still have them all. The Mollie that slept with my mom until her last breath on earth sits on the shelf in my family room, to this day, watching over me.
My mom couldn’t take care of a real dog, so having Mollie 24/7 was a godsend. Her bark, her head tilts, her panting, and her eye movements are amazingly realistic. Mollie’s audio and movements are triggered by sound and touch, so when staff would enter the room, Mollie would bark and surprise them (you can set for sound, movement, both, or none ).
We took Mollie on one last trip to Arizona to visit my sister, and she was a lifesaver. Flying with a 98-year-old is not easy and having Mollie on the plane and at my sister’s house was familiar to her and helped avoid any meltdowns. A simple “Talk to Mollie” or “Mollie needs you” is all it took. It gave her purpose and that made all the difference.
By: Jan M. - dementia advocate, best friend, caregiver, and loving daughter to her mom, Lillian M.
More About Ageless Innovation's Joy For All Companion Pets
Joy For All Companion Pets mission is to positively impact the lives of older adults and their care partners through the power of play. Their innovative products (cats, walker squawker, and pups) are designed to bring comfort, companionship, and fun to elder loved ones and to help alleviate leading issues including social isolation, loneliness, & cognitive decline, by delivering joy, fun and happiness to improve quality of life.
Joy For All Companion Pets Product Features
Authentic sound and feel with revolutionary barkback and vibrapurr technology
Interactive built-in sensors designed for comfort, respond to motion and touch such as petting and hugging
Real-feel coat and calming heartbeat for a comforting experience
Ageless Innovation's also has games, Lifetime Lineup and Past & Present Pairs, designed to create playful social interactions powered by the proven benefits of Reminiscence Therapy. Creating a flow of conversation & encouraging players to bring back memories while creating new ones. Their games are also Designed to bring generations together, players of all ages and cognitive abilities, including those living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, can enjoy!
Click the button here to shop for your own companion pet and save 15% with code TMC15
From February 1, 2024 - February 29, 2024, code TMC15 will save you 15% off your order
(As an FYI, the code will only work for checkouts on the official Joy For All website – not Amazon)
For other frequently recommended products and special offers for friends of The Memory Compass CLICK HERE
The Memory Compass Team Notes: This blog post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something from my link, I will receive a small commission from the sale. It’s an easy way to support my cause at no cost to you, but is paid by the company. I do not take becoming an affiliate with any company lightly. If I am, it’s because I believe in the company and their product, and who I trust are making the dementia care space a better place. Still have questions about these links or our process? Feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jessie Hillock, M.A., SLP, CDP
Dementia Navigation Coach & Consultant
Certified Dementia Practitioner
Jessie works with families facing memory loss and cognitive challenges across the United States as the owner and founder of The Memory Compass. She is a dementia navigation coach and consultant, a certified dementia practitioner, and has a background in geriatric speech-language pathology with an area of specialty in executive function decline with neurodegenerative disorders. Jessie helps families navigate dementia challenges through memory loss navigation consultations and dementia coaching. Through these sessions, Jessie equips families with creating solutions to their challenges, saves them time and energy, and reduces the overwhelm by developing their own individualized action plan for now and proactively for the future. If you want to learn more about Jessie's work supporting individuals and families living with memory loss, schedule a free 15-minute discovery call today! Click the button below.