Published on: 25 January 2022

Furry friends are helping to comfort patients with severe dementia through one of the simplest forms of therapy – a cuddle.

The sensory dog and cat aids are being offered to help sooth patients during their stay within South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust.

The Precious Petzzz are a ‘life-like, breathing, huggable pet’ and have bellies which move up and down to mimic breathing, as they sit on someone’s lap to be stroked and loved.

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Dr Holly Gillott, Deputy Ward Manager Angie Cooper and Dr Dominic Maxfield with the comfort aids.

Each is single-use to comply with COVID-19 rules, which also means the patient can take them home, complete with an adoption certificate, once they leave South Tyneside District Hospital or Sunderland Royal Hospital.

The trust introduced a small number in wards across both acute hospital sites and they have have been so successful it going to continue to offer them to those people who find them a comfort. 

The aids have been endorsed by the Alzheimer’s Society and introduced in accordance with Dementia UK guidance. 

To personalise the pets, the Trust is asking patients and staff to help come up with names for the cats and dogs. 
One has already been named Meg in memory of the late pet of one of the Matrons.

The designs include a Jack Russell, Pug, Labrador, Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Poodle and a Yorkshire Terrier in addition to a variety of cats. All come with their own bed.

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One of the pugs which has been passed on to a patient to offer them comfort.

The project has been led by the Trust’s Nursing and Quality Team.

Melanie Johnson, Director of Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professionals said: “Spending time in hospital can be particularly daunting for our patients with dementia and sometimes having something familiar can bring them great comfort. 

“Our sensory toy cats and dogs have already made a big impact on our patients and staff. In fact one patient commented that the dog reminded her of a late pet and made her happy.”