I’d imagine most of us could only smile if we got a visit from a bunch of alpacas, but have you ever considered their therapeutic properties?
No, I’m not suggesting you go and lie down on a couch in front of one and open up your heart – but it turns out they have a ‘remarkable therapeutic impact’ on people living with dementia.
A nursing home in Suffolk decided to trial some ‘alpaca therapy‘, and found the presence of the furry friends helped improve the morale of its residents.
Clair Perks, the activities coordinator at Hadleigh Nursing Home, explained: “It really lifts the mood of people living with dementia.
“One of our residents, Alfred Wright, who is normally not very expressive, sat bolt upright when he encountered one of the alpacas for the first time and said, ‘Darling, you have made my evening.'”
Alpacas at Hadleigh Nursing Home. Credit: Kingsley Healthcare
The nursing home had been approached to trial pet therapy using the South American animal by alpaca owner Jo Bridge.
Bridge keeps a herd of 60 alpacas at Clay Hill Farm in Wattisham, having acquired three pregnant females and two males in 2012 – when it was ‘love at first sight’.
“They are such an enchanting animal with a gentle nature. They lean forward and touch your face with their noses. We call them alpaca kisses,” she said.
Bridge eventually turned her hobby into a business, breeding and selling alpacas often kept for their prized fleece or for protecting chickens and deterring foxes.
Oh, and also as ‘ornamental lawnmowers’, as Bridge puts it.
“We host farm visits and alpaca walks and it was when we entertained a group of people with special needs that we noticed alpacas’ remarkable therapeutic impact,” Bridge explained.
“We were told one lady did not talk very much and might not even get out of the car. In fact, she had her carers in tears as she happily walked with an alpaca and chatted away.”
The ‘therapy alpacas’ visiting Hadleigh Nursing Home. Credit: Kingsley Healthcare
Having noticed the potential for their use in care homes, she approached Kingsley Healthcare-run Hadleigh Nursing Home last year to trial therapy visits.
“From our first visit, it has proved so rewarding for everyone,” she said.
“You can see the pleasure the alpacas bring just by the big smiles on residents’ faces.”
Perks said the residents loved the alpacas so much that they had even decided to adopt two – named Echo and Goose – which meant the home would be sent regular updates and photographs from the farm.
Pet therapy is recognised as a way of improving the mood of people living with dementia, with dogs, birds of prey and even donkeys now regular visitors to care homes in the UK.
Wonder if the LADbible office would be up for a visit from a few alpacas…
Featured Image Credit: Kingsley Healthcare