Feb 20, 2015

A Pet Shop for Dementia Patients Improves Happiness and Behavior

“How are you doing?” one of my residents, Melinda* asked the parrot. “How are you doing, how are you doing,” Pete repeated. “Oh, I’m doing just fine. Thank you for asking,” she responded.

By Rachael Wonderlin
Alzheimer's Reading Room

We recently built a “Pet Shop” in our dementia care community.

A Pet Shop for Dementia Patients Improves Happiness and Behavior | Alzheimer's Reading Room

This Pet Shop is really just an open, large room that I designed to look like a place where cats and dogs would live.

I bought two stuffed animals from Memorable Pets and Pete the Parrot off of Amazon, as per Bob DeMarco’s recommendation.

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Rachael Wonderlin
Rachael Wonderlin has a Master’s of Science in Gerontology from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She works as a Memory Care Program Coordinator and Manager at Clare Bridge of Burlington in Burlington, NC.

Rachael also writes on her own blog at Dementia By Day.


The Pet Shop was an instant hit. All of my residents have dementia, although some are more progressed into their disease than others. I brought a CD player into the room and played music to help draw attention to the new space. Residents came in and picked up the animals, carrying them around and petting them.

Pete the Parrot was a particularly wonderful purchase. At only $20, he has brought a lot of joy to my residents in the last few days. I keep him “on” constantly, so residents can just walk in and talk to him. Pete repeats everything that you say, so it is pretty hilarious. I love watching my residents laugh and chat with the artificial parrot.

“How are you doing?” one of my residents, Melinda* asked the parrot. “How are you doing, how are you doing,” Pete repeated. “Oh, I’m doing just fine. Thank you for asking,” she responded.
*names have been changed

Note from Bob. I did exactly what Rachael is describing here with my mom at home. We used the music channel on cable television, Harvey (Pete the Repeat Parrot). and small stuffed animals. Many of the "pets" I used also danced and sang (you press a button on their hand or foot to activate). There is no doubt in my mind that this was a "key" to effective caregiving. In combination, this technique improved my mother's behavior and attitude, made her happier, and improved her self esteem.

More Articles from Rachael Wonderlin

  1. Don't Tell Mom She Has Dementia
  2. 16 Things I Would Want, If I Get Dementia
  3. How to Become a Dementia Detective
  4. “Dementia Is Not A Time Machine”
  5. Don't Want to Lie to a Person Living with Dementia, Why Not Embrace Reality Instead

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