ORLANDO, Fla. – (December 11, 2019) – Integrating the latest medical evidence into practice, Thrive Behavioral Sciences, a leading provider of behavioral health services to skilled nursing and assisted living facilities, has launched its Furry Palz Program at select Avante Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Centers across Central Florida. Furry Palz provides patients with dementia who are also battling the devastating symptoms of cognitive decline with an adorable robot puppy or kitten that simulates breathing pets and can rest on the patient’s lap.

“The Furry Palz Program represents the kind of treatment innovations that Avante seeks out to ensure we are providing our residents with exceptional, scientifically-based care,” said Kimberly Biegasiewicz, Vice President of Clinical Services, Avante. “Because there are so few treatment options available to patients with dementia in particular, Furry Palz represents a significant opportunity for us to apply the latest medical evidence to preventing or reducing some of the most troubling behaviors associated with this heartbreaking disease.”

Furry Palz puppies and kittens are available in many breeds and colors to help match pet requests from prospective owners. By closely mimicking the behaviors of real sleeping animals, robotic companions have been shown to decrease isolation behaviors and depression symptoms among participating residents with dementia. They have also helped reduce agitation, especially with sundowning.

The pilot program is an example of how Thrive strives to treat patients in the facilities it serves with the most holistic, innovative and evidence-supported approaches available. Furry Palz provides a non-pharmacological method of treatment supported by recent scientific findings showing the effectiveness of pet robot intervention (PRI) for persons with dementia. Empirical studies from different countries have shown that PRI may offer significant improvements in the lives of individuals who have been diagnosed with dementia and are living in long-term care facilities. Most recently, a meta-analysis showed a statistically significant decrease in behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia, especially agitation and depression, in people with dementia who were treated with PRI.

“This groundbreaking finding brings hope to a population for which current treatments are limited,” said Alfonso Gonzalez-Rodriguez, M.D., MBA, Chief Medical Officer Post-Acute Care at Central Florida Inpatient Medicine (CFIM) and Medical Director at Avante Orlando. “Supported by recent clinical evidence, Thrive’s Furry Palz program is exciting because it allows me to offer a unique and safe way to improve some of dementia’s most distressing symptoms—which are also among the most difficult to treat medically or with other available therapies.”

Thrive Behavioral Sciences psychologists and mental health providers will follow residents with Furry Palz pets to document any anecdotal or measurable outcomes attributed to the program. The information will be used to refine and expand the program to additional facilities across Florida. Finally, Thrive has engaged RB Health Partners to develop infection control guidelines for enhanced safety.

“Furry Palz allows the Thrive clinical team to work with individuals diagnosed with dementia disorders in a new and exciting way, while calming their most distressing symptoms for an improved quality of life,” said Nicole M. Whitt, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist with Thrive Behavioral Sciences. “It also provides family members with the peace of mind that comes from knowing their loved ones have a puppy or kitten to help keep them calm when they cannot be with them.”

About Thrive Behavioral Sciences

With their headquarters in Tampa, Florida, Thrive Behavioral Sciences is a group of medically trained specialists who apply human behavior treatment protocols to consistently improve patient outcomes and health care delivery. For more information, visit www.thrivebehavioralsciences.com.

About Avante

Specializing in short and long-term skilled nursing and rehabilitation services, Avante strives to set the standard for incomparable care. The 13 Avante centers across Florida, including 11 skilled nursing facilities and two assisted living facilities, combine the best of both worlds: sophisticated therapies and high-tech treatments with excellent outcomes delivered by compassionate healthcare professionals.

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