Companion animals in memory loss: Hi everyone... - Care Community

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Companion animals in memory loss

15 Replies

Hi everyone,

I read an interesting article at the 'Unforgettable' website this week, about how useful companion pets can be for those people suffering memory loss and dementia, particularly with regard to restlessness.

It suggests that pets are very settling and calming in restlessness, and that if the animal can't be a real one for some reason, then maybe a robotic pet (such as a cat that purrs, or a teddy that plays a message or music) can be of help.

I've got mixed feelings about this and I wonder what others think.

I can absolutely see that an already beloved and familiar pet may be calming, but brings other issues, like who takes care of it, and whether it could be yet another trip and fall hazard to someone with declining memory, or a nuisance to an already overworked carer.

On the other side of the coin, I know how sentimental I can be about things like teddy bears and I love my little collection of them to bits. I've often threatened them with the charity shop, but actually I am quite emotionally attached to them in some obscure way.

But it was my conscious choice to have them, and as this article points out, some people think it could be seen a bit demeaning and condescending to give the victim of dementia, what amounts to a stuffed toy for companionship and comfort. In one way it could be seen as a method of introducing perpetual childhood, and that's the sort of thing I remember from my own young life, when sometimes, intellectually challenged people would be dressed as children through their adult life and given toys 'to keep them quiet'.

Then again, if it works and gives carers and sufferers some relief, is it wrong after all?

I can't fully make up my mind on this and I wonder what others feel about it?

15 Replies
bantam12 profile image

Therapy Pet visits are a good option, all the pleasure but not the hard work of owning a pet. My husband has been in Itensive Care for 3 weeks and a Therapy dog was a regular visitor for the patients, I met her a few times and both owner and dog were lovely.

We have lots of animals at home, dogs, cats, chickens and ducks so I could never imagine being without them but they are hard work.

in reply to bantam12

Hi bantam12, I think that therapy pets are wonderful. I've never had the privilege to meet one myself but I've seen lots on TV and they seem to give such comfort with none of the hard work!

sassy59 profile image

I believe that having a dog visit the home my mother in law lives in could be good for her and others. As for having a pet at home, that’s ok so long as someone is there to care for the dementia sufferer and pet.

Some dementia sufferers may well appreciate a soft toy to have but that could be difficult in a care home as things can be moved which would cause great upset and stress.

It’s all a very individual thing I feel. Xxx

in reply to sassy59

Hi sassy59,

I think you are probably right. It is an individual thing so maybe approach with caution but an open mind! Thanks.

sassy59 profile image
sassy59 in reply to

Totally agree xxx 👍

SquirrelsHolt profile image

Speaking from personal experience,a dementia parent ,who has had many,many years with the family dog/cat,could find it very beneficial to have not only small toys but also several photographs of their beloved pet. My mother was overjoyed just recently when the Nursing home gave us permission to bring in a life size,look-a-like golden Labrador,called Caesar! She was so ☺☺,it was lovely to see and "Caesar" is placed in her room out of view of the door, i in case other clients could be upset.

As sassy59 quite rightly's such a personal thing and needs to be done with a little caution.

in reply to SquirrelsHolt

That sounds like a great solution SquirrelsHolt. Thanks.

secrets22 profile image

we have 3 little rescue dogs and frankly,apart from being helpful for my partner who suffers dementia and is totally bedbound they help me cope with life enormously ,those little dogs really are my salvation and they do stop me falling over the edge.

in reply to secrets22

Hi secrets22. Fantastic that your little companions are so much help to you.

Jacki66 profile image

Hi. We have these breathing cat toys and they do not work at all. Sorry, but I do not have much faith in these. Pets as therapy have worked and I have seen this in hospitals, hospices and care and nursing homes. However, I have also seen residents in nursing homes getting annoyed with dogs which isn't nice for the animals. I think the animals needs to be taken into account first and foremost as they can't speak, can they? Personally, I feel that hand held items to stir memories and happier times are the way forward before pets. I think it is less stressful for everyone concerned. But, the artificial "breathing" ones are not really working from what I've seen.

Thanks Jackie66. That's really interesting input. Thank you.

Lynd profile image

When my husband was in hospital I took in loads of photos of dogs from our past and our current westie.

He spent a lot of time talking about our past fur babies as his memory couldn't tell him they were no longer with us.

He got pleasure from this.

I took him a Snowdog from the film snowman as we both loved the character. He loved this and told me he was a good for a chat in quiet times 😁

Fast forward to now and he and our westie are inseparable. When I go in his room in the morning they are always cuddled up together. Not great on hygiene but fantastic on the happiness and contentment level x

Hi Lynd, How lovely to hear! To heck with the hygiene. This is one of those times when comfort and peace of mind trump all other considerations.

Riverchick profile image

My mum had a dog , but since her stroke she despises him and can no longer care for him anyway , so now his my comfort 😊she doesn’t really like me even taking him round there but due to the dementia sometimes she’ll see him and like him and get emotional. She also talks about getting a new pet for company which I try to talk her out of as 1) she can get nasty so it wouldn’t be fare on an animal and 2) as you say it could just end up another responsibility for me .she also has teddy’s that sit with her on the sofa and she takes to bed .

in reply to Riverchick

I'm glad your mum's pet is providing some comfort for you now Riverchick! It's sad that it can go the other way with pets, when someone gets too old or forgetful to take care of a once loved pet. But in your case it seems it's worked out well, and at least she still likes seeing him sometimes. No, definitely not a good idea for her to have a real pet now and as I said in the original post I can see it from both sides with the 'toy' ones. I guess they are OK for some people and not for others. But thanks for sharing that with us. It's very interesting to read of others' experiences.

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