The therapy dogs helping dementia patients at Taunton's Camelot House and Lodge

  • Camelot House and Lodge speak of the benefits of their therapy dogs

Residents at a nursing home in Somerset have been receiving weekly visits from a therapy dog to help them cope with illness and isolation.

Camelot House and Lodge in Taunton looks after dementia patients and has visit from registered Pets as Therapy Dogs Bow and Poppy twice a week.

Richard Dempslake, activities co-ordinator for Camelot House and Lodge, advocates plans the visits. He said: “When we receive visits from our Pets as Therapy dogs our residents are more relaxed and their inner love of animals that’s been lost comes out.

“For the residents who struggle, their faces light up when they see the dog, they’re smiling and happy. Whatever they felt beforehand just goes away.”

Research has shown that some mental health challenges and psychiatric disorders are known to respond well to therapy dogs.

Patients diagnosed with a range of issues, such as depression, bipolar disorder, autism, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and Alzheimer's disease, benefit from their interaction with therapy dogs and other companion animals.

Camelot House and Lodge have resident guinea pigs to help patients, as well as regular visits from other animals such as birds of prey.

According to a recent survey, 94% of people who had an assistance dog for specific mental health had reduced anxiety and 71% were brought out of dissociations or hallucinations.

Beverley Stanley visits Camelot Lodge with her dog Bow as a volunteer for Pets as Therapy. She agrees that for residents at the care home who can’t have an assistance dog, having a visit from a therapy dog each week provides a multitude of ‘benefits’.

She said: “It’s physical to see that they’re happy to see Bow when I arrive and it helps jog their memories of any dogs they may have had in their previous years. We introduce her to the residents and ask whether they would like to say hello.

Residents like Robin 'light up' when they see Bow

“I think Bow does help them remember previous pets. We often have conversations about what dogs they used to have and what they were called.

“For those residents that aren’t able to come and sit in the lounge with Bow, we’ll take her upstairs and lift her onto the bed."