I have been visiting Evelyn twice a week with my dog Stanley for the past year. Her greatest passion of all is animals - especially dogs - so our visits are usually filled with animals in many different ways.
Stanley is always the star of the show, never failing to put a smile on Evelyn’s face!
Evelyn has advanced dementia and she lives in a lovely nursing home where she is provided with outstanding care as well as an amazing events and activities programme. She has a babydoll she calls ‘Gorgeous’, which was introduced to her by the Nursing home over a year ago. Doll therapy has been recognised to provide therapeutic benefits for some people living with dementia, especially for people with trauma in their past as Evelyn sadly does. It is clear by the way she cradles and kisses Gorgeous, that he brings her much comfort and pleasure.
The four of us sit together and look at animal videos and photographs from the internet and in books. The pictures are great conversation starters and sometimes a picture will trigger a memory for Evelyn, so I’m always on the lookout for programmes or animal compilations that I think she would enjoy. As Evelyn can’t get out and about too easily, I create virtual dog walks for Evelyn which include videos and photos of plants, berries and animals that I see while out walking Stanley and collate them into a presentation which we watch together.
I have also visited Evelyn with my guinea pig and my mum’s dog Nugget, and together we have ‘brought to life’ animal pictures in painting and colouring activities. Over the past year the wall opposite Evelyn’s chair has slowly become a gallery of colourful paintings and photographs featuring Evelyn, Gorgeous and all her different animal visitors.
One day recently when I arrived at Evelyn’s home, a staff member said that she was pleased Stanley and me were here as Evelyn seemed to be “feeling a bit low”. Evelyn was in the dining room and lit up when Stanley ran towards her – they get equally excited! - but did tell me that she felt “under the weather”. Stanley performed many tricks in exchange for many treats. She spoke to him with such admiration, and burst out laughing when Stanley licked her nose!
When it was time to go I commented that I hoped she felt a bit better.
“How could I not?” she replied, gesturing at Stanley. Job done! And everyone's a winner!
This post is written by Vicky, one of our fantastic Wellbeing Companions.
If you think that someone you care about can benefit from Companionship, please get in touch with Alise by calling 077300 70 289 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
[Please note that we have not used the Evelyn's real name, and permission was given by her NOK & POA to use these photographs]