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Photograph: Kayla Reefer

My Parents’ Dementia Felt Like the End of Joy. Then Came the Robots

Forget the crappy caregiver bots and puppy-eyed seals. When my parents got sick, I turned to a new generation of roboticists—and their glowing, talking, blobby creations. This article first appeared in the January, 2024 edition of Wired. Her research was supported by an Alicia Patterson Foundation grant. Photograph: Kayla Reefer When my mom was finally, officially diagnosed with dementia in 2020, her geriatric psychiatrist told me that there was no effective treatment. The best thing to do was to keep her physically, intellectually, and socially engaged every day for the rest of her life. Oh, OK. No biggie. The doc was telling me that medicine was done with us. My mother’s fate was now in our hands. My sister and I had already figured out that my father also had dementia; he had become shouty and impulsive, and his short-term memory had vaporized. We didn’t even bother getting him diagnosed. She had dementia. He had dementia. We—my family—would make this journey solo. I bought stacks of self-help books, watched hours of webinars, pestered social workers. The

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