Meet the dogs and their owners who are making a difference to people living with dementia in St Albans

The Park Side View Dementia Care Home in St Albans opened its doors on Thursday 3 October to a number of visitors – both human and canine. The care home has been running pilot Dementia Dog Days for the past six months to support people with dementia and their carers. They have been a great success.

Hertfordshire County Council has worked with Hertswise, Dogs for Good and local volunteers and their specially-trained and assessed pet dogs to establish this monthly event at Park Side View. The care home offers a flexi-care scheme that provides specialist accommodation and care services to older people.

The Dementia Dog Days are funded by The Big Lottery and aim to bring joy, happiness and conversation into a group setting of people with dementia and their carers. This helps improve their quality of life, provides respite for carers and promotes access to dementia support services in the community. They are one of three pilots that are currently running nationally as part of a wider research project by Dogs for Good, using dogs to engage with people with dementia. 

Six volunteers have been working with Dogs for Good to train their pet dogs to meet with the clients and carers at Park Side View. The client’s family members and carers often report the beneficial impact this has on them, lasting long after each event and triggering positive reminiscing and increased opportunities for sharing meaningful time together

Jemma is one of the volunteers and the owner of Otis. When Jemma was asked about what her favourite thing has been about volunteering for the past 6 months at the Home, she said: “Talking to people who don’t have the opportunity to have their own dogs has been great – and being able to facilitate it. Everyone has been positive, and this has been good for the carers as well as it gives both the clients and carers something to look forward to when we come here.”

“Coming along and chatting to people goes a long way – it’s a great conversation starter and makes people feel more relaxed.”

Volunteer Helen and her dog Milo

The pilot has been such a success that Hertfordshire Taking the Lead intend to not only continue at Park Side View, but also expand across the County.

‘Hertfordshire Taking the Lead’ was created by veterinary surgeon and County Councillor and Vice Chairman of Hertfordshire County Council (HCC), Susie Gordon. Susie, together with Hertfordshire’s Public Health Department use a range of dogs – from specifically trained dogs for Animal Assisted Interventions (AAI) to the well-behaved pets of HCC staff. This trailblazing initiative is a completely new and novel approach to improve the lives of some of our most vulnerable residents.

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