The power of pets

When I arrived to visit Mum yesterday, the talk among the staff was of spiders and snakes. One member of the team seemed unable to sit still at the thought of a snake, particularly as a colleague demonstrated in graphic detail how said reptiles eat their prey. All very interesting but not too much of a problem in Kidderminster. At least, I don’t think so. Mum laughed along. Though she might not have followed the conversation – and believe me, I was struggling – it’s clear how much pleasure she can derive from animated conversation around her.

But unless I’m missing a story of a serpent-invasion of Worcestershire, let me move on to other “animals”. I read an article in The Guardian last week about how robot pets are being used in the care of people living with dementia in Sheffield. You can read the article here: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/jul/08/paro-robot-seal-dementia-patients-nhs-japan

Mum’s care home has a resident labrador, Coco, and regular readers might recall Tom the kitten who had to move on because some people were allergic to him. Mum took to Tom and loves Coco too, although she won’t have it that Coco is female. But I’ve seen at close quarters how significant a part in the life of the home pets can play. The home now has two toy cats which are disarmingly realistic. The pair appear to breathe in and out but unlike Tom who wanted to play continually, these two sleep all the time.

They’re a few steps behind Paro the robot seal who lives in that care home in Sheffield and, apparently, can recognise its name amongst other things. But if animals, real, toy or robotic bring a smile to the face of someone living with dementia – and in my experience, and the experience of others, they do, then it has to be positive, doesn’t it?

mum and tom 1

Mum with the mischievous Tom

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2 Responses to The power of pets

  1. dementedgirl says:

    It’s so true – MIL lives and breathes for her beloved cat, Smokey, who is such a huge comfort to her. The day she is parted from him is the day she will finally break, I think. Even though he will be with husband and I – we won’t be giving him away after all he has inadvertently done for her! x

    • Thanks for taking the trouble to send this. We try so hard as humans but often pets or music can make a more meaningful connection! Smokey should become an honorary Dementia Friend.

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