Miniature donkeys delight care home residents

A volunteer at Brooke House care home with Wendene Fluellen. Picture: Courtesy of Brooke House

A volunteer at Brooke House care home with Wendene Fluellen. Picture: Courtesy of Brooke House - Credit: Archant

When Sarah McPherson was supporting her mother Patricia Little through the later stages of dementia she discovered one thing that really brought a smile back to her face – donkeys.

Gwen Moore at Brooke House care home with the miniature donkey. Picture: Courtesy of Brooke House

Gwen Moore at Brooke House care home with the miniature donkey. Picture: Courtesy of Brooke House - Credit: Archant

She found that the donkeys she kept at her home in Hempnall had a magical effect.

“The calm nature of the donkeys made her calm and it made her smile which was something that had become quite rare,” she said.

Following her mother’s death earlier this year, Ms McPherson, 54, resolved to let others enjoy the therapeutic benefits of her four donkeys and set up a social enterprise called Mini Donkeys for Wellbeing.

Now, with the help of volunteers, she takes them to care homes across Norfolk and Suffolk.


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On a visit last week to Kingsley Healthcare-run Brooke House care home, in Brooke, delighted residents could not believe it when they came face to face with donkeys indoors.

Home manager Hayley Hirst said: “Some of our residents are living with dementia and pet therapy is known to be a tonic for them – but you are usually talking about dogs and cats.”

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Deputy manager Sue Manning added: “Everyone loved it. There were lots of smiles and residents were interacting with the donkeys. It was a fantastic experience.”

Ms McPherson said: “It is tremendous to see how the donkeys spark so many memories when we go around the care homes.

“It brings back memories of donkey rides as children and, in Norfolk and Suffolk, many people come from a farming background and may have had a donkey.”

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