Ever heard of the Eden Alternative?
The Eden alternative founded by Dr. William Thomas stems from the concept that residents in facilities often suffered from feeling bored, lonely and helpless; and the simply joys of life like children, plants and animals were great tools to combat those issues. Care homes that embrace this concept seek to make the lives of their residents much happier by empowering staff and emphasizing the presence of plants, animals and children.
This movement, along with others has increased the presence of animals in care homes.
Interesting concept you say, but does it help?
Even though not everyone is a lover of animals, the answer in one word is: Yes. Overwhelmingly, research supports the benefits of use of animals with people who have dementia. Interacting with pets has been known to improve mood by reducing loneliness and increasing social interaction. It is also proven to help residents feel much calmer and less distressed which means appetite increases while behavioural problems decrease.
Check out this example: Eden Alternative Featurette
So how could you explore this?
There are a number of pet friendly homes, in the UK – the carehome.co.uk website has a few.
Someday try out Dementia Dog?
In 2013 with the support of Alzheimer Scotland and Dogs for the Disabled and Guide Dogs Scotland, two dogs underwent 18 months of training. The project was a success and since then more dogs are being specifically trained to identify and respond to the needs of someone with dementia.
While this project is still in its infancy, you can begin with little steps at home. Introduce a calm, well trained pet into your home. Make sure all the health and safety concerns are looked into and start introducing the pet gradually in short sessions, until familiarity and fondness for the animal develops. Think of interesting fun and games that could be played with the pet. Start small until the person you look after is comfortable with the pet and happier because of it.