As regular readers will know, one of the most important members of the Freedom Care team is Bracken Kinch.  Bracken is our very special Bracken-KinchTactile Stress Relief Officer.   She is loved by all our service users and gives them a sense of well-being and ‘normality’. She has a very calm and loving temperament and also encourages us all to get out for brisk walks to help us to keep fit and healthy. She is also great to have around in the time of crisis as she helps to keep some of our service users calm.

Bracken – for those that don’t know – is a dog!  A 5 year old Lab cross, she is a regular visitor to the Freedom Care locations.  As a tribute to Bracken, we want to take a look at some of the recognised benefits of pets to those with complex health needs.


A Sense of Routine

Being around a pet necessitates routine, something many people in need of mental health care find gets swamped by feelings of depression, lethargy, anxiety or distraction.  This sense of routine can help to take your thoughts away from the issues that are plaguing you.  It enables you to concentrate on being fully in the moment, and not worrying about the past or the future.



The simple act of stroking a pet is proven to lower blood pressure, which reduces physical as well as emotional stress. This connection with a pet releases oxytocin, the hormone related to stress and anxiety relief, helping to reduce blood pressure and lower cortisol levels. People live longer and healthier lives when living with pets due to lower cholesterol and reduced anxiety.


They make you smile

Even just watching animals is also known to reduce stress!   Being with a pet is fun and can make you smile.  Smiling in turn raises your serotonin and dopamine levels, which are nerve transmitters associated with calmness and happiness.  You can also have fun with a pet.  Whether it’s playing, wrestling, running around or dancing – you are free to be yourself and have fun and your pet will love you for it.


Lack of Judgement

Many people find it comforting to talk to a pet because, unlike many people, pets don’t judge a person or their  illness. Any thoughts or feelings or secrets are safe with them.  A pet can be the perfect listener when you need to vent your feelings without any potential repercussions. They are not “awkward” about illness too – unlike many people!  Whatever our complex health needs, the relationship between them and us remains unaffected.


Calming Influence

Pets have a calming influence on us and they also need us to maintain a positive, calming energy to get the best response from them.  This cycle gradually helps us to let go of negative stress if we want our pets to obey us.  By focussing our attention on caring for a pet, that pet’s positive response will give you a feeling of instant gratification.


They get you outside

Sun and fresh air can lift your mood and the sun also gives you an extra dose of Vitamin D, which in turn helps fight many physical and mental conditions. Also, being outside with a pet enables you to engage with nature – which in itself can be incredibly calming.


They get you fit

Walking a dog gradually makes you more physically fit, which helps not only your body, but also your self-esteem. A more active lifestyle lowers blood pressure and cholesterol and also improves circulation.  The overall effect is a stronger and fitter body, with less susceptibility to mental health issues.


We are delighted to have Bracken as part of our team and are sure you’ll agree that she earns her keep many times over!  To read more about Bracken and all the other lovely team members at Freedom Care, have a browse through our Staff page here!

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