Pets hold a special place in many people’s hearts and lives. For people who used to have regular contact with animals they can often miss this when moving into a care home if they are no longer able to look after their pets.
Animal therapy can be really beneficial for residents of care and nursing homes, giving them an interest and something to focus on. Contact with animals can make a real difference to people and bring joy, comfort and companionship.
Each month at Maples Care Home in Bexleyheath, visits from Nightingale Dogs is a regular highlight for residents. Volunteers Jenny and Tim bring along their furry friends Gracie, Puffin, Crowley, Breeze, Leafy and Zavvi, to play and interact with residents.
Nicola Phillips, Home Manager says “Having the pets visit the home is absolutely amazing for our residents. I have seen people with advanced dementia with minimal communicational abilities come alive when they interact with the dogs.”
Different animals can be used as therapy and there is compelling evidence to show that interacting with pets can also provide physical, social and emotional wellbeing.
Even residents who are unable to go out on visits can benefit from animals being brought into the care home environment. People with dementia often respond very positively to visits from animals.
Mrs Wynn Blackwell who is blind loves to hold Leafy the dog who is also blind, whenever the Nightingale Dogs visit the home. Leafy curls up in a ball on Wynn’s lap and snuggles off to sleep – a cause of comfort and joy to both.
During a visit in April, residents joined in a new washing game with the dogs, competing to see who could remove socks from the line quicker than four-legged Crowley. On this occasion all the residents won. Resident Grace Kilpin said “I had great fun trying to race the dog at the washing today”.
Animal Therapy has been an ideal way for residents who may be less mobile or withdrawn to interact with animals and with each other. Being able to touch, hold, feed and stroke a friendly animal can help to improve social interaction between residents and create a greater feeling of community.