Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Animal Friends’ Pet-Assisted Therapy Program Serves Nursing Home Residents

By Katie Kurylo, Communications Assistant 

   Think of a time when you or a loved one were hospitalized or living in an assisted living center. Certain images and feelings come to mind like pain and illness, long hours, sleepless nights and stressful days. 

   Now picture the gentle presence of animal.

   Science is proving what we here at Animal Friends have known all along: that animals can be wonderful healers. 

   Animal Friends’ Pet-Assisted Therapy program brings the comforting presence of pets to residents of nursing homes, assisted living centers, veterans’ homes and hospitals. The contact encourages communication, socialization, independent movement for the immobile and memory stimulation. Since the program’s inception, trained volunteers and their animal sidekicks have visited over 100,000 people.  

   One of the many sites that Animal Friends’ volunteers visit is The Haven at North Hills. This assisted living community is home to a variety of residents, all with different needs.  But, as Life Enrichment Director Missy Brown found out, all of the residents enjoy when Animal Friends’ volunteers visit.

   “When the visits go up on our event calendar, all of our residents look forward to it,” said Brown. “The visits are wonderful and everyone is always very excited about the animals.”

   There was no Pet-Assisted Therapy program when Brown started working at The Haven. “I worked at Vincentian Nursing Home before I came to The Haven and they had a wonderful pet program there. I saw how beneficial it was to the residents and wanted to start something similar here,” she explains. 

   Brown has seen the positive changes that the pet-assisted therapy can make in the lives of the residents. She told the story of one particular resident that who not participate in the social programs offered at Haven. 
   “He would barely come out of his room, except to make a quick trip to our store to buy some candy,” Brown said. After a few visits with a Pet-Assisted Therapy dog, however, the resident has opened up, and is now more social with staff and comes to more programs. 

   “It really improves our resident’s health. The animals make them laugh, make them smile and remind them of their own pets. The animals really have a calming effect.  It’s a very positive experience for them,” Brown said.

   Paul Lang, 62, a resident at Haven, says that the visits “are a nice change in my day.” 

   “I’m a dog person and when you’re in an environment when you cannot keep a dog, it’s hard,” Lang said. “The visits make a huge difference in my day.”

Birdie, a Border Collie, is one of Lang’s favorite visitors. “She loves being petted on her belly. She’s a wonderful dog,” Lang said. 

   At Animal Friends, we believe that there is a place for our furry companions everywhere, and that places of healing are some of the places where we need them the most!  

If you'd like to learn more about our Pet-Assisted Therapy program, click here!

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