When residents of Balhousie Huntly care home got ready for a pet therapy session with a difference, little did they know they would become media stars.
When a BBC crew got wind of the story of newborn lambs visiting the care home, they couldn’t wait to capture it on film.
Reporter Nasim Asl tracked the lambs’ journey from Lower Inchcorsie Farm to the home and talked to residents and staff about the benefits of pet therapy. The story was broadcast all over the BBC – including BBC Scotland’s The Nine, BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Breakfast News and Radio 4’s Farming Today.
The lamb visits were the idea of Tanya Smith, Activities Coordinator at Balhousie Huntly. Tanya is a dementia ambassador for Balhousie Care Group, promoting the company’s award-winning dementia practices among staff and the public.
And as the grand-daughter of a shepherd, Tanya knows just how to handle the special visitors. “I grew up helping my grandad and lambing season is one of my favourite times of the year,” she says. “Seeing the pure joy on residents’ faces when the lambs visit – there’s nothing like it. They get a cuddle from the lambs and some of them even sing to them. This is a rural area and we have several residents who were farmers and farmers’ wives, so seeing and holding the lambs sparks special memories for them. That’s really important, particularly for our residents with dementia.”
For June Robertson, who runs Lower Inchcorsie Farm with husband Iain, the visit goes deeper than making the residents happy. June is a former geriatric nurse who still misses her nursing days. “I think it’s true to say that you’re once a nurse, always a nurse. I’m extremely fond of the residents at Balhousie Huntly and I’m a big believer in what staff are doing here.”
Yvonne Manson, Dementia Operations Manager at Balhousie Care Group, said:
“Studies have shown the benefits of animals to people with cognitive and physical challenges which is why we’re big proponents of animal visits to the homes. So far we’ve had visits from miniature ponies, lambs and even reindeer. The effect on residents is remarkable. It stimulates memories, improves their mood, and has them talking about it for a long time afterwards.”
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