Rescued greyhounds to boost quality of life in HammondCare aged care homes

In an Australian-first pilot program, rescued greyhounds will provide support and engagement for people living in aged care homes, including residents living with dementia.

HammondCare Horsley residents Thelma Connaughton and Edna Moore with greyhound Jordy HammondCare and Greyhound Rescue together announced the Hounds Helping Humans pilot at selected HammondCare residential aged care locations in coming months. A review of the benefits of the program will follow.

The pilot will build on previous animal engagement programs with seniors that have been found to greatly improve their quality of life through decreasing loneliness and depression, increasing physical activity and improving socialisation.

The Hounds Helping Humans pilot forms part of a broader Life Engagement Project that will build on existing relationships with residents and provide more opportunities for residents to pursue long-held interests and develop new ones, through programs like visual arts, music and animal engagement as part of HammondCare’ s approach to individually tailored care.

HammondCare Chief Executive Mike Baird, who launched the program on June 3 at the HammondCare Horsley residential care home, said life engagement is a key component of HammondCare’s relationship-based model of care.

“Meaningful involvement with everyday life is crucial to everyone’s wellbeing,” Mr Baird said. “I am delighted that one part of this Life Engagement Pilot is evaluating how animal engagement and support can improve quality of life for residents.

“What a wonderful outcome if rescued greyhounds can be given a new purpose providing happiness for the those who are older in the community."

Greyhound Rescue President Nat Panzarino said her organisation was looking forward to working with HammondCare on the pilot and the potential of  a wider program for rescued greyhounds in aged care homes. Ms Panzarino said greyhounds were good candidates to assist with wellbeing in aged care services; they are generally calm in nature as well as being tall enough to be accessible to people who are in wheelchairs or confined to beds.

HammondCare CEO Mike Baird with HammondCare Horsley resident Thelma Connaughton with greyhound LB.

“At Greyhound Rescue, we know all too well the magic that these incredible hounds can bring to people’s lives,” she said. “What better way to share this magic with more people than bringing greyhounds to where they are really needed – to brighten the lives of people are craving connection and companionship.”

Ms Panzarino said Greyhound Rescue volunteers have experience taking their greyhounds to mental health and aged care facilities.

Horsley resident Thelma Connaughton, 83, spoke affectionaly about greyhound “LB”, short for Long Black, after spending time with her at the launch of the Hounds Helping Humans program. “She is just so lovely, so beautiful – absolutely beautiful!"

In addition to LB accompanied by human handler Jeremy Richman, others at the launch included Bronwyn Mitchell, handler for greyhound Sunny and Kate Button handler for greyhound Jordy.

A 2013 Australian study found that residents in aged care homes with dementia and low mood demonstrated significantly improved depression scores after receiving dog-assisted support relative to human-only intervention.

HammondCare CEO Mike Baird and HammondCare Horsley resident Thelma Connaughton with greyhound LB

The Hounds Helping Humans pilot, funded by a grant from Australian Ethical, is an Australian first and will operate within tight processes with both residents participating and greyhounds carefully chosen. The greyhounds have received training to prepare them for the sounds, sights, activities and equipment (such as wheelchairs and trolleys) they will encounter in an aged care environment.

The training also encompasses communication techniques to facilitate meaningful connection between the greyhounds and residents, specifically residents living with dementia.

HammondCare Senior Research Fellow, Professor Susan Kurrle, said she would be interested to see whether interactions with greyhounds could improve quality of life. “Dogs can have a wonderful, calming effect for someone with dementia. I have seen how quickly they can calm agitation,” Prof Kurrle said.