Care homes in Birmingham use a little bit of animal magic to help residents with learning disabilities
Published by kerri smith for Reach the People Charity in Housing and also in Communities
A charity caring for people with profound learning disabilities is using an innovative new therapy to help improve their lives – with a little help from the animal kingdom.
Trident Reach the People Charity, which offers care and support services across Birmingham and the surrounding areas, has seen dramatic results in the wellbeing of customers after animals became the latest additions to the family.
The charity has been using fish, rabbits and chickens, to help offer an alternative treatment to customers at three of its care homes across the region.
Caring for the animals, helping to looking after their needs and enjoying the extra companionship has had a major impact on the customers and even helped the charity reduce its use of medication.
It is based on the Eden Principles idea which was first developed in North America to combat loneliness, helplessness and boredom among the elderly. Evidence has shown it can prove beneficial to those with mental illnesses and learning disabilities too.
At Trescott Road care home in Northfield, Birmingham, there are two cats, Marshall and Woody, who are brother and sister. There are seven customers with a learning disability at the home who regularly stroke, feed and generally help care for the pets.
At Hobson Road care home in Selly Park, Birmingham, the home has added chickens as part of a plan to extend a garden project. The home has six hens, which lay eggs that are not only used in the home but also sold to staff and other customers for a small donation. The home also has a fish tank as well.
Customers at Vicarage Road home in Kings Heath have a new friend called Tinkerbell, the rabbit, who joined the home earlier this year. Originally a house rabbit, she was donated to the home and now lives in a special hutch and run. She is a popular addition and a firm favourite among customers, staff and visitors alike.
Dalvinder Kaur, Head of Registered and Community Services at Trident Reach the People Charity, said the idea started in 2010 as an effort to be more focused on the individual needs of customers.
This began with the use of low-maintenance pets like goldfish and plants but soon spread as the effects were realised.
She said: “In the past where some customers would have shown behaviour that would be considered aggressive, using animals such as stroking a cat has allowed them to feel a sense of security and helps them to calm down. It helps with their mental wellbeing and reduces medical interventions.
“We definitely see it as a form of therapy and it has been really successful. We support people with profound learning difficulties who in some cases are unable to communicate verbally. But even in those people, staff have reported seeing more positive gestures. The customers have reacted very positively.”