I thought I had heard it all, that is until this week when I learned that a donkey had made a surprise visit to a care home. It turned out to be an eventful afternoon at Trowbridge Oaks Bupa Care Home as Pedro, provided by Kelly’s Donkeys in Beckington, paid a visit.
The inspiration for the activity came after staff at the home discovered a donkey sanctuary just down the road. The residents were allowed to cuddle and play with the donkey, and Pedro even visited some residents in their rooms.
The delighted pensioners were treated to a healthy dose of animal therapy as they fed and stroked Pedro the donkey.
The afternoon was organised to boost the wellbeing of the residents. Kayleigh Deadman, receptionist at the care home, says: “The residents were in disbelief that there was a real donkey in the home. They were overwhelmed with joy.”
“He created a real buzz when he entered the room and everyone was talking about it for hours after he left. Some residents reminisced about childhood donkey rides at the beach and some said it reminded them of their past love for horse riding.”
Janet Cousins, resident at Trowbridge, particularly enjoyed her time with Pedro.
She said: “It was wonderful to have such a special visitor and I wish we could have kept him for the whole day.”
“I used to spend a lot of time at the local stables when I was younger, so it made me feel very nostalgic.” The home are now planning to have other visits from Pedro or his friends in the future.
Julie Masklyne, a resident, would be keen for this as she said: “I want Pedro to live here with us! I’d have him here every week if I could.”
Bob Mead was one of the lucky residents who got a room visit, and he was ‘surprised’ when the donkey set foot in his space.
Linda Watts, home manager at Trowbridge Oaks, added: ‘Interaction with pets is proven to provide health benefits and, whilst the most common therapy animal used is dogs, we had the opportunity to mix things up here at Trowbridge Oaks Bupa Care Home with a visit from Pedro the donkey.
“The residents really enjoyed the experience, as did the staff, and it definitely bought a smile to everyone’s faces.”
The benefits of animal therapy
All animal lovers know the value of animal therapy. The presence of animals can be calming and mood-boosting, especially for residents with dementia.
I can recall working with people who had a learning disability and the enjoyment they gained from riding horses. The benefits of riding horses and the confidence that was gained had a beneficial impact on their lives.
Contact with animals can provide something special and magical in addition to human interaction. Research has shown that having animals around services promotes a culture of kindness and tenderness for people of all ages. Spending time with and caring for animals has specific therapeutic benefits and helps them process trauma and loss and become more emotionally resilient.
Therapy animals in care or nursing homes offer affection, enjoyment, and entertainment, giving residents a break in routine and something they can look forward to. Residents are often more likely to join in with activities with others in the home when a therapy pet is around, and they not only offer companionship with an individual but also help them to build friendships with other residents in the home.
Things the manager needs to consider before having animals in the home
The Care Inspectorate in Scotland recognise the amazing difference being around animals makes to residents in care homes and has produced a series of videos called Animal Magic.
However, they also say there needs to be a balance struck to ensure that everyone that lives in a care home has their choices and rights respected.
The value of pets (normally cats and dogs) to residents living in a care home is well documented. But having a surprise from a donkey is something else.
I am sure the manager of Trowbridge Oaks would have consulted with residents about their choices and rights. Considered safeguarding issues and consulted with the regulation authorities.
The manager should be congratulated for taking up the opportunity of a ‘donkey visit’. The therapeutic benefits of the donkey seem to have brought the home closer together for the afternoon which was enjoyed by all.
Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute Managing Director Bettal Quality Consultancy