For the Love of Auskar (Community story)

Community story

By Stewart Brumm, Chief Executive Officer, Bribie Island Retirement Village, Australia  © Dementia Care International

Here Stewart introduces Auska, his 2½ year old Indian Ring Neck Parrot.

Auska has grown up visiting aged care facilities and bringing joy to many elderly Australians. Whilst I initially acquired Auska as a personal pet, and set up open-perch housing for him in my office, Auska didn’t like being left behind when I walked around my facilities; so I began to take him with me.

It was truly wonderful to see the expressions on everyone’s faces as I walked around with a parrot on my shoulder, from staff, residents, families and visitors. I got the normal jokes about being a pirate and where was my eye patch, but I also started to hear stories and tales from residents of their own experiences with birds. These ranged from very positive stories of lifelong friends to being attacked by birds as children. I listened to these stories and would often share experiences with the residents about feeding, training and living with my bird.

Whilst I knew the positive impact Auska had and the joy and happiness he brought to people’s lives, I didn’t realise the full impact until I moved to another facility. When I returned for a visit to my old facility, after a 3 month absence, I did not take Auska. I was somewhat surprised to find the residents, including some with dementia, asking, “Where is your bird?” This drove home to me the impact Auskar’s daily visits had made to the residents of that facility. Even today if I leave my office without him, it’s only a matter of minutes until I’m asked by a resident, “Where is the Bird?” or “Go back and bring Auska with you.”

When I see the attention Auska generates and the smiles, laughter and joy he creates, I can truly say that a small parrot can ignite the spark of life in all of us. So if your facility isn’t suited to a dog or a cat as pet therapy, perhaps consider a bird. Only, remember, birds need a lot of love, attention and training.