Simple ‘hugging device’ proven to reduce anxiety in people with advanced dementia – now available

HUG™ is available to buy today for care homes, hospitals and families with dementia

HUG™, a soft comforter designed to be cuddled by people with advanced dementia – developed by the HUG by LAUGH team at Cardiff Metropolitan University and supported by Alzheimer’s Society – is available from today (Tuesday, 19 October).
To get as close to the feeling of a cuddle as possible, HUG™ has weighted limbs and a soft body, and contains a simulated beating heart. It also has a built-in music player which can be programmed to play the person with dementia’s favourite music. 

Close up of the HUG by Laugh toy cuddling a person

Research, led by Cardiff Metropolitan University, found that 87% of participants who used HUG™ for six months experienced an increase in their wellbeing.

HUG™ has been trialled in care homes, hospitals, and with people living with dementia at home over the last three years - including during the isolating, confusing months of the pandemic. It has been proven to soothe, comfort and reduce anxiety - helping people who have been kept apart from their families’ hugs.  
HUG™ was originally developed for a woman living with advanced dementia, who experienced a significant positive change in her health and wellbeing after using HUG™ for 3 months. She was bedbound, unable to communicate with poor appetite and general health. She was a person who frequently fell over but after receiving HUG™ she had no further falls. The soothing device provided her with comfort, purpose and reassurance that improved her quality of life resulting in better health outcomes.

HUG™ has recently been available on prescription in an NHS hospital trial where it was found to help reduce patients’ anxiety and agitation, aid communication, assist medical staff to give medication and perform basic medical procedures (such as taking blood pressure, etc). 
Alzheimer’s Society’s Accelerator Programme has provided support and investment over the last year to help make HUG™ commercially available and reach as many people living with dementia as possible. 
People living with advanced dementia may find themselves increasingly more isolated, agitated and anxious – and it can be especially hard to provide comfort to people in the later stages of dementia, when they may be receiving end of life care. Communication can be challenging for both the person living with dementia and their loved ones, and people may experience changes in behaviour including distress or aggression. 
People with dementia have been worst hit by coronavirus, with many deteriorating from the knock-on effects of social isolation. The pandemic has stressed the importance of physical touch for people with advanced dementia, who may be unable to be with their family all the time. 
With the number of people with dementia in the UK set to rise to 1.6 million by 2041, more and more people will reach the advanced stages of the disease – stressing the need for meaningful products to bring comfort to them. 
Professor Cathy Treadaway, Professor of Creative Practice at Cardiff Metropolitan University’s School of Art and Design, said:

‘We are delighted that HUGs are now available to buy. Most of us love having a cuddle but over the last 18 months that’s been so difficult, especially for people who are vulnerable or isolated. We have seen how HUG™ can really change peoples’ lives - bringing comfort, companionship and pleasure.
‘We are very grateful to Welsh Government, AHRC and Alzheimer’s Society for funding the research and development of HUG™.’

Colin Capper, Head of Research Development and Innovation at Alzheimer’s Society, said:

‘The tough reality for many people in the later stages of dementia is daily battles with anxiety and agitation, especially when apart from the people they love. And with the pandemic shutting doors to care homes, we’ve tragically seen just how crucial physical touch is to keeping people well. 
‘It’s brilliant to be able to support the HUG by LAUGH team through our Accelerator programme to develop a product which will have such an immediate, positive impact on people with advanced dementia. Making life better for people with dementia today is just as important as finding a cure for tomorrow.

Jackie Pool, Quality Compliance Systems' (QCS), Dementia Care Champion and creator of the Pool Activity Level Instrument (PAL), a tool that assesses the level of functional ability of people with cognitive impairments, said:

‘I am delighted that I was able to develop a set of specific HUG™ PAL Guides which ensure that people living with dementia are supported at ‘just the right’ level and engage with HUG™ in the most meaningful way possible. 
‘We're looking forward to continuing working with the HUG™ team to ensure that frontline carers can provide outstanding dementia care.’