Residents spent an afternoon with PAT dog Springer Spaniel Tilly and her owner, Pet Therapist Judith Boyle of the North East Pet Therapy Service, and enjoyed pampering the pooch by grooming her, as well as giving her cuddles and treats.
She also visited the rooms of some residents for one-to-one sessions with those less comfortable in group settings.
The visit was the latest in an on-going programme of animal therapy at Field View, a residential care home for the elderly which also provides specialist care for people living with dementia. The home has also welcomed visits from mobile ‘zoos’ and miniature horses, and holds an annual Crufts-style competition for the pets of staff residents’ family members.
Animal Assisted Therapy, as well as being a lot of fun, has been shown to have psychological benefits, particularly for those living with dementia. The physical contact with the animals is therapeutic and helps to reduce stress and form emotional connections. Spending time with the PAT dogs can help to increase confidence, as well as bringing comfort and companionship to older people.
Activities Coordinator at Field View Janice Hardy arranged the visit through the Durham based North East Pet Therapy Service, an offshoot of the North East Befriending Service, a service aimed at tackling isolation and promoting independence for older people and people living with disabilities at home or in care settings. Their pet therapy service delivers pet therapy sessions using dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits, and a tortoise to schools, day centres, care homes and sheltered accommodation across the North East.
She said: “Everybody enjoys these special PAT visits, as a group activity it’s great at sparking conversation and our more frail or withdrawn residents get so much from spending one-to-one time with the pets. Their faces light up as soon as they come to visit and it’s very therapeutic for them.”
“The grooming aspect was particularly great as it gives an added practical purpose to the interaction. They have a task to accomplish which makes the experience even more meaningful and rewarding which is wonderful for enhancing wellbeing.”