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Unusual Dementia Therapy Coming to Care Homes

There’s a new dementia care home therapy helping to transform the life of care recipients in residential homes up and down the country. In a bid to stem the isolating sense of loneliness that so many elderly people are subject to, nursing homes are opening their doors to feathered and furry visitors.

Harmful Effects of Loneliness

Research shows that extended periods of loneliness and isolation are as harmful to health as smoking around 15 cigarettes every day. The loss of memory brought about by diseases such as dementia can make the sufferer feel isolated and alone, and it is now believed that social isolation can actually be a contributory factor in developing some forms of dementia. Lonely people have a 30 per cent higher chance of suffering from a stroke or developing heart disease and are more likely to suffer from immune system disorders than those people who have good self-esteem and a satisfying social life. Research has shown that interacting with and caring for a pet is a powerful antidote to negative feelings, promoting a profound sense of well-being.

With approximately 850,000 dementia sufferers in the UK in 2016, any dementia care home therapy that improves the quality of sufferers’ lives is to be welcomed. And with Age UK suspecting that over a million elderly people in this country are having their lives blighted by loneliness, anything which helps to stem that sense of isolation needs to be adopted country-wide so that everyone can reap the benefits of this unusual new dementia therapy.

Furry Tales and HenPower

Furry Tales is a project organised by Stepney City Farm which began as a social club based around elderly people interacting with animals, such as donkeys, hens and rabbits. The benefits of such interactions led to the project being expanded into local nursing homes, with excellent results.

A similar project which has proved to be a huge success is HenPower, which is an initiative created by Equal Arts, a charity dedicated to promoting creativity in old age. Volunteers have installed chicken coops in a number of residential homes, with the residents caring for the hens on a daily basis. The charity reports that residents gain a great sense of purpose from looking after their flocks, with some participants giving talks and demonstrations to local schoolchildren in a move that helps the older people to feel closer to their communities. Being able to participate in events such as these has helped to transform the lives of elderly care home residents almost beyond recognition.

With such significant results from the trials into the introduction of pets as a new and effective type of dementia care home therapy, we can expect to see the idea being adopted by increasing numbers of care providers over the coming months.

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