Pets as Therapy is a national charity which provides therapeutic visits to hospitals, nursing and care homes, special needs schools and a number of other establishments. Behaviourally assessed dogs and cats visit establishments with their owners to bring some extra happiness to people’s days.
Esther visits the Poplars Care Centre in Maidstone with her owner Yester every fortnight, and it is clear that her visits are a real highlight for many of the residents. For residents who are living with dementia, Esther can act as a reminder of their own pets and prompt reminiscence and conversations.
For many other residents, Esther’s visits are something to look forward to in the week and really do brighten up their day. A member of staff explained that one resident is often reluctant to engage with staff and can be non-communicative, but that when Esther visits she is much happier, chats with staff and other residents and has her mood boosted for several days. The wife of another resident described how “Esther’s visits bring a smile to everyone’s face. She really is a Super-dog!”
There are now more and more studies exploring the health and wellbeing benefits of pet ownership and pet visits, particularly for people living with dementia. In the Alzheimer’s Society’s Living with Dementia magazine in 2011 there was an interview with Jane Fossey, a clinical psychologist and a trustee of the Society for Companion Animal Studies (SCAS). Jane explained that “a number of small-scale studies suggest that introducing animals into care homes can have positive effects for people with dementia. For example, spending time with visiting animals has been shown to reduce blood pressure and anxiety, and improve social interaction and sleeping patterns. It can also reduce the late-afternoon restlessness that can affect people with dementia.”
Pets as Therapy currently have around 5000 active visiting PAT Teams making up to half a million visits per year. The demand for the charity’s services is huge and new applicants for the service may have a long wait before receiving visits, depending on the number of volunteers and the demand in their local area. If you think your pet could be a Pets as Therapy animal and you would like to volunteer in your area, please find out more and get in touch.