pet therapy in care homes

Spending time with friendly trained animals or a team member’s pets in for a day, often a few times a week. The purpose of pet therapy is to help someone spend some time thinking positively about something new which can lead to improving self-esteem and confidence. It can also promote quality of life and encourage independence; visits from an animal can be a relaxing experience and an exciting part of a person’s day.

Dogs and cats are known to be lifelong reliable companions and the friendliest love to play with everyone. Pets can give people with dementia a feeling of unconditional love, an energetic experience and an exciting part of a their day. Animals are also a wonderful source of laughter. For residents living with Dementia this can help connect with memories of past pets, and for those who are less able to take part in trips out, this can be one of the most rewarding types of activity.

The majority of Signature homes are pet friendly with some homes accepting a new resident’s pet to live in the homes. Animals can be soothing for those who have difficulty expressing themselves. Feeding and grooming can help increase the resident’s physical skills and help them become more active if they’re spending some time in the Signature gardens, this time improves socialisation – In the end, a bunch of good people and some furry companions doing great work to help everyone.

Activities Coordinator Helen Abbott discusses pet therapy at Signature at Beaconsfield

How often are pet therapy days?

Our pet therapy dog visits weekly with owner, cats and furry animals monthly, larger farm animals and smaller insect and creatures three times a year. We have tea with the Bucks ponies as often as we can arrange.

What kind of animals/pets visit each home?

Dogs, cats, small furry pets, insects, farm animals, ponies.

What’s the reaction/response from the residents during the pet day afternoons?

The residents are happy to stroke and pet, hold and cuddle all the animals we have mentioned, it makes them smile and comfort them releasing some of those endorphins and benefiting those who wouldn’t engage in any exercise.

For some residents that aren’t always keen to engage, we find our therapy animals offer affection, enjoyment, and entertainment, and can revamp a routine that other activities may not.

Do the homes take trips or walks to farms for these therapy days?
Yes we go to aquariums, the pony sanctuary, we take dogs for walks in the garden and are trying to raise some baby animals (chicks) as well as have rabbits of our own. We have days planned in spring for odds farm for both assisted living and Reminiscences lounges.

What activities are included?
We include feeding, touch and learning about the nature and the animal in question, its habitat and its dangers.

Why are these days important?
The animal therapy days can give residents the motivation to participate in activities, exercise, and express emotion. They can ease loneliness for residents who will not leave but have always had pets and miss them dearly. They can increase socialising among residents by giving them a reason to meet for these events.

We found residents have improved moods and less agitation, better sleep nights and increased eating e.g. tea with the ponies!

Signature at Bagshot’s Activities Coordinator, Jane Harris, helps take care of their friendly care home cat Bruno who spends his days interacting with teams and residents. Jane said “He’s well loved by all and taken care of; Bruno even sits in on activities time just to watch… Every day is important to our residents including the welfare of our cat. When he’s been unwell everyone is asking for an update. If they see him taking a trip for a check-up at the vets, they enquire how he is.”

At Signature at Eastbourne’s Teddy the friendly Poochon visits them weekly as part of their pet therapy program. Teddy certainly puts a smile on everyone face when he visits Signature at Eastbourne.

Signature at Bentley House have two rabbits that live at the home and residents can enjoy their company anytime. They are always present indoors to residents; some days they have afternoon tea planned to encourage the residents to leave their rooms and socialise. Having Blossom and Bella the rabbits at Bentley House gives residents the time to sit down  and watch the rabbits playing.