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Using Animal Therapy To Boost Wellbeing

One of the major factors that impacts on a person?s quality of life is being able to engage in meaningful activity, like animal therapy, and this is especially true for residents of residential and nursing homes. In fact, NICE, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, has identified opportunities to participate in these activities as important in improving the mental well-being of care home residents.

Animal Therapy in Care Homes

Many people have kept pets such as cats or dogs prior to coming into a care home, and some may be fortunate enough to be able to bring their pet with them into the home. However, other residents may be animal lovers but rarely come into contact with animals.

Some home managers and owners bring their own pets into residential homes on a regular basis when they come to work so that they can interact with the residents. In one home that offers nursing, residential and dementia care, a golden retriever puppy has proved very popular with the residents – particularly the men. One gentleman with dementia enjoys taking the puppy for regular walks with a member of staff, and others enjoy interacting with him in different ways. Many different animals can bring a smile to the faces of care home residents.

Pets as Therapy

This national charity arranges visits to residential homes by volunteers with their dogs and cats and can really make a difference to the wellbeing of residents. The animals are screened to ensure that they have a suitable temperament for visiting people who may be frail or have different disabilities. They also have to have up-to-date vaccinations so that there are no health risks to be concerned about. In all, there are visits to more than six million people each year.

The organisation has also undertaken research into various aspects of bringing pets into residential homes for therapy. These include the beneficial effects on mood in residents and whether people who had previously owned dogs would benefit more than those who had not. The results of this study suggested that both dog-owners and non-dog-owners benefitted equally from the visits. The dogs themselves have also been the subject of research, which concluded that they interacted for an equal amount of time with patients and care staff, but when there was no physical interaction, they tended to remain with residents rather than staff.

Although it is quite simple to encourage people in residential care homes to interact with animals and fairly easy to facilitate, the benefits can make a real difference to the quality of life in residential care.

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