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Alpacas Become Latest Therapy Animals in Care Homes

Alpacas are famous for their gentleness, and that has been put to therapeutic use recently, with alpacas visiting nursing homes on the south coast and in Scotland to brighten up the day for care home residents with dementia and other disabilities. There’s something about an alpaca that just makes you want to smile, and pictures of the residents meeting alpacas show their absolute delight and pleasure.

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Nursing Home Therapy Animals Can Build Engagement

Cats, rabbits, guinea pigs and dogs have all led the way in visiting people with dementia in care homes. Stroking an animal can provide important physical contact, and many residents will have had their own pets but been forced to give them up. However, hardly any residents will have met an alpaca before. The touring alpacas, named Oliver, Sirocco and Midnight Prince, have become overnight stars.

Some older people in nursing homes find it hard to get involved with organised activities, and yet they will readily relate to an animal. During the recent visits, people also had a chance to learn a little more about these animals, which are becoming increasingly popular in the UK. The fleece has a lot of different uses in making clothing, and of the 41,000 alpacas in the UK 34,000 live on farms, while the rest are pets owned by individuals.

One of the great growth areas is Alpaca Therapy, and many farms offer therapeutic sessions for vulnerable groups such as at-risk children. Their use with older residents is a newer development, but why not? Just looking at their calm, comical faces is enough to lighten the spirits. They’re also a good size for an older person to interact with. Patting a dog may involve bending down, and a horse is a bit big, but an alpaca is just at the right height, even for a wheelchair user.

It’s important to keep residents of nursing homes interested and to enrich their lives – particularly to give them new and unexpected experiences (as long as they’re pleasant ones). A visit from an alpaca certainly fits the bill.

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