Baaaaaa-my idea brings joy with visit to centre

Princess of Wales Alzheimer's Society Day Centre members Hilary Burke and Barry Maltas enjoy a visit from lambs.

Princess of Wales Alzheimer's Society Day Centre members Hilary Burke and Barry Maltas enjoy a visit from lambs.

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Sheeps of cuddles helped bring cheer people with Alzheimer’s as creature comforts were used in a therapy session.

Lambs Mack and Em hit up the faces of visitors to a day centre in Pennywell as they cradled the pet animals in their arms during the event.

Hilary Burke strokes one of the lambs.

Hilary Burke strokes one of the lambs.

The unusual encounter was the brainchild of Alzheimer’s Society day support worker Shelley McDermott.

After a successful visit from some American Miniature Horses earlier this year, Shelley realised the lambing season would provide another opportunity for some beneficial interaction.

She contacted close friend Gail Robertson, of Houndalee Farm near Morpeth, to ask if she would bring in two lambs.

Shelley said: “We had such a fantastic response to the horses that we wanted to do something similar.

It’s wonderful to see the reaction we get from people with dementia when they’re able to experience such close encounters with the lambs.

Shelley McDermott

“It’s wonderful to see the reaction we get from people with dementia when they’re able to experience such close encounters with the lambs.”

Gail added: “I have taken lambs to meet people with Downs Syndrome and autism but never dementia, so this is a first.

“There is evidence that interaction with animals has a calming and therapeutic effect of people, and that applies to people with dementia as much as anyone.

“Small animals in particular have a tendency to make us smile and want to hold them, and the lambs seem to enjoy it too.

Princess of Wales Alzheimers Society Day Centre member Barry Maltas with one of the lambs.

Princess of Wales Alzheimers Society Day Centre member Barry Maltas with one of the lambs.

“Unlike the sheep they turn into, lambs are very energetic and playful and enjoy human contact.”

Wendy Hunter, Alzheimer’s Society services manager in Sunderland, said: “We are currently in the midst of our biggest-ever campaign, United Against Dementia, which aims to highlight, among other things, the stigma associated with the condition.

“One of our key messages is that people can live well with dementia even though, on the face on it, their quality of life might seem poor.

“The reactions we get from encounters such as this demonstrate that however closed off a person appears to be, they are still in there and can experience enjoyment.

Princess of Wales Alzheimers Society Day Centre members Hilary Burke and Barry Maltas enjoy a visit from lambs.

Princess of Wales Alzheimers Society Day Centre members Hilary Burke and Barry Maltas enjoy a visit from lambs.

“It’s wonderful to witness and we are so pleased we were able to make this happen during our United Against Dementia campaign.”