New initiative offers an un-fur-gettable experience for older Australians with dementia

May 25, 2023
Rescue greyhounds bring joy to aged care dementia patients. Source: Instagram @greyhoundrescue

A new program in NSW is proving that dogs truly are man’s best friend.

For the first time in Australia, HammondCare’s Horsley age care homes in Wahroonga and Darlinghurst opened their doors to furry guests eagerly waiting to meet the residents living with dementia.

According to estimates by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) in 2022, there were over 400,000 people living with dementia in Australia, with 68 per cent of aged care residents diagnosed with moderate to severe cognitive impairment.

To help combat the feelings of isolation and low self-esteem that dementia patients may experience, HammondCare partnered with Greyhound Rescue to launch a new project called Hounds Helping Humans in the hopes of providing a new social service involving rescued greyhounds offering a form of dog therapy for people with dementia.

Per the HammondCare website, “animal engagement sessions and therapy are proven to ease feelings of anxiety and provide a calming influence for those living with dementia. That’s why we started the Hounds Helping Humans program.”

“These helping (grey)hounds are beautiful, rescued animals that are provided with a new purpose in therapy and engagement due to their calm and gentle nature. They are also tall enough to be accessible to people who are in wheelchairs or confined to beds. ”

According to HammondCare’s Chief Executive Officer Mike Baird, the greyhound visits bring joy to their 2000 residents.

“This is one innovative way that we can achieve our ambition to set the global standard for relationship-based care for people with complex needs,” Baird said.

Greyhound Rescue President Nat Panzarino also notes that the dog’s handlers have recieved considerable positive feedback from the program.

“They have enjoyed watching the special connections between the residents and greyhounds grow each week they came to visit. There is genuine excitement when the hounds arrive,” Panzarino said.

“The handlers have absolutely loved being involved as well, it’s very fulfilling, and for many of the hounds it has quickly become their favourite activity.”

A 2015 study conducted at a nursing home found that biweekly visits from a person accompanied by a dog increased the resident’s sleep duration and decreased feelings of depression.

Sandra, a daughter of one of the HammondCare residents says she was “so happy to see the joy [her] dad experienced by being with Jordy [the greyhound].”

“I love seeing how Dad smiles when Jordy comes up to his hand for a pat. Dad loves it, and Kate [the greyhound handler] is also very calm, which is what people living with dementia need, and she communicated so well with Dad,” she said.

HammondCare and Greyhound Rescue are hoping to make the animal management program a widespread initiative. Their current goal is to involve all their HammondCare residential aged care sites in NSW, aiming to have Victoria join later in the year and South Australia in the near future.


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