Pets can have a therapeutic affect on care home patients. Stephen Pullinger reports on three dogs that have become favourites with residents.
First there was Monty, then came Sydney … and now there is Buttons! When you conjure up a picture of a care home you would not normally imagine one with dogs scampering about.
But why not? It can be a real wrench for people used to pets all their life when the time comes for them to move into care and they are deprived of their canine companionship.
But Lowestoft-based Kingsley Healthcare has really got it licked when it comes to combatting those feelings of isolation and loneliness – by introducing pets into its homes. Two-year-old Lhasa apso Monty has been putting a real wag into the tails of residents at Kirkley Manor nursing home in Lowestoft for nearly a year.
Manager Dani Gaston, who brings her pet into work every day, said: “It creates that sense of home for people used to having a pet at home. “Residents are able to interact with him and stroke him, which works well for people living with dementia who are able to reminisce about pets that they have had. They might not be able to recall specific details of their lives but they know he is called Monty.
“People are calmer after his visit and he loves all the fuss. They even save up their biscuits to give to him.” She said Monty had undergone basic training with the Headway charity under its Brainy Dogs scheme to prepare him for working with people.
Research had shown that therapy animals can have a calming effect on people with dementia as well as lowering blood pressure and reducing the use of anti-psychotic drugs for aggression, she added. Meanwhile, West Highland terrier puppy Sydney has become a more recent four-legged recruit for Kingsley – coming into Brooke House residential home for regular shifts with home manager Laura Crowley.
She said he had become an instant hit with everyone at the home in Brooke near Norwich. “People with dementia can become agitated and have mood swings but pets often have an amazing calming effect,” she said. Buttons has become the latest dog to melt the hearts of Kingsley staff and residents at Park Lane, one of the company’s homes in the North West, in Congleton. Manager Jayne O’Sullivan said her 40 residents had taken a real shine to the King Charles spaniel since she was introduced to them as a seven -week-old puppy. She said: “I take her home with me every night but during the day she is here with the residents Monday to Friday. “Everyone loves to see Buttons, including the relatives of our residents and visiting health professionals.”