Animals have often been used as a form of dementia therapy for those with the condition, but this has often been observed in common household animals, such as cats and dogs.

However, research has suggested that interaction with many other sorts of animals can have the same positive effect, which has prompted many care homes to try out dementia therapy with less traditional animals.

Meet the animals

In London, England, many animal organisations, such as Stepney Hill Farm, have begun to offer their services to care homes in the surrounding areas. As such, many care home residents have been visited by a host of animal friends, including rabbits, guinea pigs, hens and ferrets.

“We take small, furry and feathery animals – including guinea pigs, rabbits, chickens and ferrets, to meet isolated older adults facing disadvantage,” said Merlin Strangeway, Furry Tales Outreach Lead at Stepney City Farm.

Residents are encouraged to meet and bond with the animals in order to help boost their mood, self-esteem and to also reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.

“These creatures offer comfort physically and emotionally, bringing about much conversation, reminiscence and laughter. We are passionate about linking nature and laughter in later life,” explained Ms Strangeway.

The dangers of loneliness

People with dementia suffer from numerous problems on a daily basis, but loneliness is not always one that tends to be considered.

However, recent studies have highlighted the dangers of loneliness, prompting the UK’s Local Government Association to state that loneliness in individuals over the age of 65 should be treated as a major public health issue.

Loneliness has been linked to a number of problems, such as high blood pressure, a compromised immune system and premature death.

And while it can greatly affect those already with dementia, there is evidence that loneliness can also increase the risk of younger people developing the disease in later life.

Tackling loneliness

Due to its ability to tackle loneliness as part of its dementia therapy, animals have seen a substantial increase in use in care homes in the UK and abroad.

One of the more famous examples in the past few years is a project known as HenPower. Created by ageing charity Equal Arts, it aims to tackle loneliness in older people as well as improve general wellbeing.

To do so, the charity launched a scheme in which outdoor hen coops could be provided to care homes across Britain, allowing residents to care for the hens, such as by collecting eggs.

“The hens come into the home and you see residents light up,” said Lesley Hobbs, manager of Deerhurst Care Home in Bristol.

“The sense of ownership and daily jobs such as collecting eggs has given purposeful activity and increased teamwork for everyone involved. It is simply a brilliant project.”

Located in Bondi Junction, dementia therapy is but one of the many services we offer to all our clients here at Home Caring. Get in contact today to find out more about how we can help.