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Animal therapy in care homes - a man in a wheelchair in the garden with a dog on his knee

Damon Culbert from Wild Science, provider of animal therapy in care homes across the UK, talks about the difference between short visits from animals and dedicated Animal Assisted Therapy.

Animals in care homes are a growing phenomenon attempting to improve the wellbeing of the elderly in long-term care. Many residential care providers have sung the praises of therapy dogs, cats, horses and even lizards in their ability to animate residents and stimulate social interaction. But what are the recorded benefits of animal therapy and should every care home invite animals in?

Not every encounter that seniors have with animals will qualify as animal therapy. Animal Assisted Therapy is defined as targeted therapy interventions which make use of an animal to achieve set goals. Examples in care homes might include having a resident walk a dog regularly in order to improve or maintain mobility functions long-term or games between animals and residents to encourage social interaction between residents experiencing heightened feelings of loneliness.

dementia dolls

Robotic therapy pets, which respond to touch and sound and provide stimulation and companionship, are also growing in popularity in care homes, with one in 10 care home staff (11%), saying their care homes have them. Robotic therapy pets mimic real animals and include life-like dogs which bark and furry cats which miaow and purr.

Doll therapy and robotic pet therapy are becoming more recognised as a way of calming and comforting people with dementia, although doll therapy in particular can be controversial as it can be challenging for relatives to see their family member cradling a doll and there have been suggestions it infantilises people with dementia.

Experts in the field have a number of tips for those considering the therapy. These include introducing the doll gradually, using the doll at appropriate times and ensuring people do not neglect their own needs in favour of the dolls.

Woman zipping across the Tyne for charity and residents

DAREDEVIL care home staff flew across the Tyne on a zipwire to raise funds for residents and charity.

Over £1,000 was raised by staff from The Oaks Care Home, in Blyth, Northumberland, after they launched themselves off the Tyne Bridge.

The home’s carers and support staff jumped from the bridge’s balustrades before zipping across the river on a cold autumn day.

The team included care assistants Samantha Porter and Linda Palmer, senior carer Sarah Geggie, care assistant Jessica Maxwell, maintenance man Chris Sogorski, senior carer Paige Gallagher, activities coordinator Natalie Brimelow, and care assistant Sarah Ferrow.