Alpaca duo, Twinkle and Dude, have taken time out from the farm this week to visit patients with dementia at the Ruskin Unit in Carlisle.
Twinkle and Dude visited the unit to provide animal therapy, an alternative to medicine which can improve a patient’s social and emotional wellbeing. Patients spent time with the alpacas, stroking them and finding out more about their needs.
Rikki Dawson, Ward Manager at Ruskin Unit said: “Twinkle and Dude’s visit was just great; you could feel such a buzz in the atmosphere and the positive impact is clear through our patients’ mood and behaviour. This type of therapy helps keep people well, motivated and engaged.
“We’ve done a lot of work over the past few years to improve the service we provide for our patients, including different therapies that are not all based around medicine. Animal therapy always goes down well and we are looking to get some owls and other birds to visit soon.”
One patient on the unit was thrilled with the visit and said: “I really like them both. They’re lovely, soft and patient and like being stroked just under the chin.”
Twinkle and Dude’s owner, Kim Inglis Jeffries from Blencogo Farm, Wigton, adds: “The alpacas are great with people; we’ve had some wonderful experiences with those who have met them both on the farm at home and through our visits around the county.
“Alpacas are particularly calming with children that have autism as well as people that live with dementia. They are incredibly intelligent and very perceptive; when out visiting people they can pick up on those who are most vulnerable and like to spend time with that person. They also have great memories and always remember if they have been somewhere before and a particular person they have had a bond with.”
Louise Cuthbert, Occupational Therapist at the Ruskin Unit, said: “We do lots of alternative therapies on the unit and animal therapy is just one of them. I came across alpaca visits on social media and thought it would be a real novelty. It’s nice for our patients to have touch interaction and it provides a different experience for each individual who can then take something away that’s personal to them. Some of our patients have lots of experiences with animals, for example one was a farmer, which makes these kind of sessions really beneficial.”
The Ruskin Unit is a 15 bedded nurse led unit for older patients with an organic illness, such as Dementia. The unit uses a comprehensive and holistic approach where various health professionals work together to find the best way to manage individual patient needs.