Max melt­ing hearts

Bangor Mail - - YOUR COMMUNITY - Fire crews from Llangefni at­tended the fire Max dur­ing one of his vis­its to the Hergest Unit, Ban­gor

A DOG has been “melt­ing the hearts” of psy­chi­atric pa­tients while im­prov­ing their men­tal health.

Max, an eight-year old Samoyed from Siberia, and his owner Paul Alexan­der, make weekly vis­its to the 40-bed Hergest men­tal health at Ys­byty Gwynedd, Ban­gor, to cheer up pa­tients.

The re­tired busi­ness­man from An­gle­sey vol­un­teers his time un­der a scheme run by the Ther­apy Dogs Na­tion­wide char­ity. Vis­its have been praised by staff for lift­ing pa­tients’ mood, self-es­teem and will­ing­ness to en­gage with oth­ers.

Ca­trin Roberts, ac­tiv­ity nurse, said: “It has been quite in­cred­i­ble to see the de­vel­op­ment in our pa­tients’ men­tal health af­ter a visit from Max.

“Ther­apy Dog vis­its can have a huge im­pact on peo­ple with men­tal health prob­lems, par­tic­u­larly those with anx­i­ety, de­pres­sion and de­men­tia. There is clear ev­i­dence that con­tact with dogs can lower heart rate, re­duce anx­i­ety and im­prove mood.

“When peo­ple come into hos­pi­tal they can lose a lot of the tac­tile ev­ery­day phys­i­cal con­tact with peo­ple, so be­ing able to stroke and pet a soft cud­dly dog can have a re­ally calm­ing ef­fect on them.

“Pa­tients can also re­ally miss their pets when they are ad­mit­ted to hos­pi­tal so when they see Max they can get quite emo­tional. It gives them a lot of com­fort.

“We have some pa­tients who are un­will­ing to take part in any ac­tiv­i­ties dur­ing their first cou­ple of weeks af­ter ad­mis­sion. But when Max is here they will come out of their rooms and start to en­gage. It’s a re­ally good start­ing point for pa­tients who may be too anx­ious to at­tend other ac­tiv­i­ties.

“The aim is to re­duce the sense of iso­la­tion that peo­ple with men­tal health prob­lems can feel and en­cour­age them to in­ter­act with oth­ers, be ac­tive and learn new skills.

“We also hope to en­cour­age them to con­tinue with these pur­suits once they are dis­charged so they can con­tinue to look af­ter their men­tal well­be­ing.”

Max and Paul also make reg­u­lar vis­its to nine hos­pi­tal wards at Ys­byty Gwynedd, Ys­byty Cefni, Llangefni, and Ys­byty Pen­rhos Stan­ley, Holyhead, and four res­i­den­tial homes in An­gle­sey.

Mr Alexan­der said: “It’s hard to de­cide who Max has a greater ef­fect on – whether it’s pa­tients or staff.

“Hos­pi­tal staff tell me it’s like see­ing a Mex­i­can wave of smiles and joy when Max vis­its them. Pa­tients tell me that see­ing Max is one of their great­est plea­sures in hos­pi­tal.”

Ther­apy Dog vis­its are just one of a num­ber of ac­tiv­i­ties and ther­a­pies which take place on the Hergest Unit.

Pa­tients are en­cour­aged to take part in art ther­apy, gardening, craft and games groups, ex­er­cise and re­lax­ation classes, Tai Chi and walk­ing groups.

Mr Alexan­der is en­cour­ag­ing other dog own­ers to con­sider be­com­ing part of Ther­apy Dogs Na­tion­wide.

He said: “We need more vol­un­teers to come for­ward and help make a dif­fer­ence on places like the Hergest Unit.

“Not only does it keep me busy but it’s ex­tremely re­ward­ing too. It gives me great plea­sure to see the smiles on peo­ples’ faces when they come into con­tact with Max.” FIRE chiefs have con­firmed that a blaze started at a house in Llangefni was the work of ar­son­ists.

Two fire crews tack­led the flames en­gulf­ing a shed at­tached to the back of the house in Is­graig.

One crew from Llangefni and one from Me­nai Bridge dealt with the fire af­ter they were called out at 04.05am on Satur­day morn­ing.

The shed sus­tained 100% fire dam­age.

Fire fight­ers used one hose reel jet, two breath­ing ap­pa­ra­tuses and a ther­mal imag­ing cam­era in putting the fire out.

A spokesman for North Wales Fire Ser­vice said: “The in­veti­ga­tion has been com­pleted and it is be­lieved to be a de­lib­er­ate ig­ni­tion by per­sons un­known.”

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