Greyhound Rescue has partnered with HammondCare to bring a spark of joy and companionship to people in residential aged-care homes. The program is based around regular visits from Greyhound Rescue teams of a Hound + Handler. Initially the main focus will be on HammondCare clients living with dementia.
Ms Panzarino, President of Greyhound Rescue said, “At Greyhound Rescue we know all too well the magic that these incredible greyhounds can bring to people’s lives. 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 who are craving connection and companionship.”
“Greyhounds are great candidates to assist with wellbeing in aged care services. They are generally calm and docile in nature as well as being tall enough to be accessible to people who are in wheelchairs or confined to beds,” said Ms Panzarino.
HammondCare Chief Executive Mike Baird 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. “What a wonderful outcome if rescued greyhounds can be given a new purpose providing happiness for the those who are older in the community,” he said.
HammondCare and Greyhound Rescue have been working for months to develop the Hounds Helping Humans program. Ms Panzarino said, “COVID lock-downs kept frustrating our plans and shifting our start date, but the enthusiasm never waned. When we announced the program to our volunteers there was an amazing heartfelt response. So many of our people are keen to be part of this initiative and contribute to such an important part of society.
Claudia Barton, who is visiting care homes with her hound Captain, said: “I knew how much it meant to my grandma to have visits in her nursing home. When I got your email about the program I thought it would be a nice way to pay something forward and share Captain’s love with more people. My grandma would never have said it, but she would’ve loved Captain if she’d met him.”
The development of the Hounds Helping Humans program was funded by a grant from Australian Ethical. Hound + human teams have been carefully-selected for the program. Each team has undergone purpose-designed 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 hounds and HammondCare clients.
Shelley Tinworth, who is visiting care homes with her hound Jessi, said: “Many older folks tell us about their animals growing up, and it got me to thinking how hard it must be for those in supported care not to have that connection any longer. When this program was announced, I thought Jessi would be perfect as she has so much love to give, and is always happy to receive that back in return.”
HammondCare Senior Research Fellow, Professor Susan Kurrle, said she would be interested to see whether interactions with greyhounds could improve quality of life. She said a big advantage they have is their height –an older person sitting down can be eye level – to eye level with them without bending down.
“Dogs can have a wonderful, calming effect for someone with dementia. I have seen how quickly they can calm agitation,” Prof Kurrle said.
The teams at HammondCare have noted the change that the hounds have brought to their homes, “Whenever a hound enters an apartment, eyes widen, residents appear from their rooms to see what’s happening, and those dozing in their chairs wake to pat, smile and chat. One resident who claimed to hate dogs, couldn’t stop patting a visiting hound and commenting on its soft silky hair.”
With the Hounds Helping Humans pilot program underway at selected HammondCare residential aged care homes, ongoing evaluation of the program will measure the positive ways the program enriches the lives of humans and hounds alike in the hopes of securing ongoing funding. Click here for more information on how you can support the program.