Tees Grange, a complex care nursing home in Stockton-on-Tees, has an unconventional four-legged staff member: two-year-old golden Labrador retriever, Honey. Having become an integral part of the care home community, Honey’s unwavering companionship and unique talents, such as understanding a distinct language program, have been bringing smiles, comfort, and emotional support to both residents and staff alike.
Under the loving care of her owner Catherine Pearson, Home Manager at Tees Grange, Honey has evolved into more than just a pet; she is a cherished and respected member of the Tees Grange family. Renowned for her unique ability to understand Makaton, a language program that uses symbols, signs, and speech to facilitate communication for people with various abilities, Honey has been a permanent member at the care home for a considerable time.
Honey’s remarkable journey began when she was trained with a dedicated organisation at just 12 weeks old. During the programme she was taught essential skills, such as responding calmly to interactions with people in distress. Her training also included learning Makaton, which enables her to communicate with people who have difficulties with verbal communication.
Makaton uses speech with gestures and pictures to help people communicate who have no speech or whose speech is unclear. It also uses facial expressions, eye contact and body language to convey as much information as possible. Makaton helps people communicate their choices, share information with their care team, and enables them to understand more about what is happening.
Tees Grange residents have been able to forge a profound connection with Honey, using Makaton signs to interact with her. This budding bond between the residents, staff, and their furry friend has improved the overall atmosphere at the care home, fostering a sense of community and belonging.
Honey also plays a vital role in the well-being of residents. She offers emotional support and engages in activities that help reduce stress and anxiety.
Furthermore, Honey’s presence has had a positive impact on the staff as well, with her cheerful and friendly demeanour significantly boosting morale. She has joined her fellow co-workers in various activities and events at Tees Grange, including ‘Pink Day’, which raised awareness for breast cancer, where both staff and Honey donned pink attire.
Catherine Pearson, Home Manager at Tees Grange, sums up the positive impact Honey has had on the care home, saying, “Honey’s been a part of our family since we opened, and she’s been an invaluable presence at Tees Grange.
“She can understand a lot of commands and plays an invaluable role in helping the people we support who use Makaton to communicate continue to engage in everyday life and the activities many of us take for granted. Her presence has also made residents feel more at home, as many reminisce about the animals they’ve previously had in their lives.
“Overall, she has brought immeasurable joy and comfort to them, and has been an incredible source of support for our staff. Our carers have recognised the value of her presence, with some even suggesting that they should all ‘be more like dogs’ – always friendly and living in the moment. I would say she perfectly embodies one of Exemplar Health Care’s core values of having fun, as she spreads happiness wherever she goes.”