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Anchorage

New collection of free resources for seniors and families is now available at Hospice of Anchorage

Hospice of Anchorage has items meant to help community members who are living with dementia, life-limiting illnesses or grief available at no cost through its expanded library of resources. (Photo provided by Hospice of Anchorage)

Robotic pets, walkers, tool kits and music players: All are part of an updated library of resources at Hospice of Anchorage that are now available to local families at no cost.

Amy Tribbett, executive director of Hospice of Anchorage, said the expanded resource library was made by possible by CARES Act grant funding. The items available for distribution are meant to help community members who are living with dementia, life-limiting illnesses or grief.

The idea for acquiring some of the items — like the robotic pets — came during the long, lonely pandemic months.

“The stories of isolated seniors, just that really kind of struck us,” she said. “Especially, you know, the patients in assisted living with dementia who were not able to have any visitors, we were like, gosh, a pet would be amazing.”

Robotic pets simulate real ones: The dogs pant, wag their tails and take naps, and the cats purr and have simulated heartbeats. The devices have become prolific in nursing homes around the country over the last few years.

“The (robo-pets) provide that calming sense to dementia patients,” Tribbett said. “It’s also been known to alleviate isolation that elders feel. And it provides them with an opportunity to care about something.”

Other new items in stock at the resource library in Anchorage include fidget blankets and tool kits, which are both specially designed for those with dementia. Fidget blankets have features like Velcro tabs, zippers and buttons, along with other sensory items like a scrunchie. They can help bring calm to Alzheimer’s or dementia patients whose fingers get restless when they’re anxious or agitated.

“It provides multiple sensory opportunities,” Tribbett said.

The toolkits, too, are filled with sensory items — including a pinwheel. Tribbett said she witnessed the magic of the pinwheel while working with patients at a previous hospice company.

“We had a volunteer that was sitting with a dementia care patient, and the patient was not responsive, and so she pulled out this little pinwheel and blew it. And the dementia patient looked at her with eyes wide open and smiled,” Tribbett said. “It was still nonverbal. But that was the first communication that volunteer had with that patient.”

Hospice of Anchorage currently has more than 75 robo-pets and 75 fidget blankets in stock, among other items. Alaskans can call Hospice of Anchorage at 907-561-5322 to request any of the resource library items, which are being given out as free gifts and not temporary loans, according to Tribbett. Curbside pickup is available.

Resources available include:

• Wheelchairs

• Walkers

• Canes

• Shower chairs

• Bedside commodes

• Incontinence supplies

• Books on dementia, caregiving, grief, cancer, chronic illnesses and end of life

• Robotic pets

• Music players

• Fidget blankets

• Tool kits

• Prepaid prescription cards

• Travel vouchers for transportation to medical appointments


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