Residents in care homes across the country are being joined by furry new friends as alpacas are proving to be excellent – and therapeutic – visitors.
The gentle nature of alpacas makes them perfect for activity-based visits, and residents have been welcoming them into their Care UK homes from Hampshire to Edinburgh.
At Ferndown Manor, near Bournemouth, and The Potteries in Poole, residents gathered to welcome local alpacas Oliver, Midnight Prince and Sirocco. The friendly creatures were even given a tour of the homes by their handler, so they could also visit residents in their bedrooms as well as in the lounges.
At Cairdean House, Edinburgh, alpacas Amadeus and Calvin led a ‘meet and greet’ with residents, who were encouraged to pet and interact with them. As part of the visit, residents also learned about the history and characteristics of alpacas, as well as a host of interesting facts.
Ferndown Manor home manager Janet Lewis said: “We are always looking to arrange interesting and exciting activities for residents, and bringing pets such as cats and dogs into the home to meet residents has been proven to have many therapeutic benefits for older people.”
Alpacas, a close relative of llamas, originate from the Altiplano in west-central South America, which spans the borders of Peru, Chile and Bolivia.
Zita Turner, home manager at The Potteries, added: “Not many residents had seen an alpaca before, and you could see from residents’ reactions just how fascinated they were by the chance to get up close to and pet the gentle-natured creatures. It proved to be a real success, and the residents all enjoyed having a cuddle with Oliver and Sirocco as well as learning about how their fleece can be used to make all sorts of different clothing.”
Alpacas are becoming ever more popular in the UK, as a result of their fleece, temperament and are even used by some farmers to protect their sheep flocks from foxes. According to the British Alpaca Society 41,400 are currently registered with them and they believe there are around 7,000 more animals in the country owned by individuals as pets.
Gillian Goodall, home manager at Cairdean House, said: “Not only did the workshop fit really well with our ‘activity based care’ approach here at Cairdean House, it was also fantastic to see the smiles on everyone’s faces, especially as it can have real therapeutic benefits for residents – particularly those living with dementia.”