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Therapalz: Smart Therapeutic Companion Animals

Therapalz makes smart therapeutic companion animals that make caregiving easier for users with memory disorders as well as their caregivers.

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Who is your idea designed for and how does it better support family caregivers as they care for a loved one with dementia?

Therapalz makes smart therapeutic companion cats and dogs for individuals with memory disorders. The Therapal recreates the animal assisted therapy experience, providing the same experience as interacting with a real therapy cat or dog. To mimic the experience, the Therapal has a constant heartbeat, lifelike sounds, and responds to user interaction with a purr in both our cats and dogs. The Therapal acts an intervention for caregivers to regain control of the caregiving experience.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Therapalz have been designed alongside users with memory disorders as well as their caregivers in both homes and nursing care facilities. To ensure that the Therapal adds value to caregiving experience, we interview caregivers when developing new features, and then cycle-through the user testing process with individuals memory disorders. We can watch the emotions of users, gauging how the Therapal makes them feel when it is introduced to them, and when it responds with a friendly purr.

What skills, input, or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

We are always looking for unique input from present, past, and future caregivers. Whether you are a grandchild or a neighbor of someone with a memory disorder, you know how much the disorder can change the daily life of that individual. We aim to improve the physical and mental well being of everyone involved in the caregiving experience. If you identify as a caregiver and believe Therapalz can make your experience easier, reach out to us at and on social media @Therapalz.

How long has your idea existed?

  • Over 1 year

This idea emerged from

  • A student collaboration

Tell us about your work experience:

The Therapalz team has experienced the difficulties of caregiving firsthand, watching our grandparents develop memory disorders and move out of their homes and into nursing care facilities. Our team is made up of students in Design, Engineering, and Marketing at the University of Illinois.

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Photo of Tonia Porras

Caregiving is very emotionally taxing on someone, but if you take a step back and refocus on the greatness that can come out, it can be worth it! Im not sure about your product, but from a personal experience with real animals, my dad had gone into a funk and became depressed.

I started to drop off my two lovable dogs with him and the caregivers and my mom, and it only took a few weeks, but he is much more excited about life and absolutely loves my pups. Im not sure if it was just them that did the trick, but I have found personal value in the idea of pet therapy. Good luck in your venture!

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