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Improving Residents Health With Animals

Fluffy ducklings are anything but ugly, according to a group of care home residents on the outskirts of Manchester. Inspired by research that shows how interaction with pets is improving residents’ health, staff hatched a plan. In fact, they hatched five cute and cuddly ducklings thanks to an innovative company called Incredible Eggs, which provided all the necessary equipment and information. Residents at the home watched in delight as the eggs hatched and took turns in cuddling the little ducklings, and even those with poor mobility were able to enjoy seeing the ducklings splashing around in their paddling pool.

Pets in care homes

Proven Benefits of Animal Therapy

This is not the first time that animals have brought delight into a nursing home, with numerous studies conclusively proving that interaction with animals is definitely having an impact on residents’ health. Pets as Therapy, or PAT, has been demonstrating the therapeutic benefits of animals since 1983 by introducing well-behaved pets to care homes and hospitals.

The process of introducing care home residents to animals is sometimes referred to as Animal Assisted Therapy, or AAT. There have been numerous small-scale studies over the years that have demonstrated just how effective this type of therapy can be for generating a feeling of well-being and improving residents’ health. In 2011 the Alzheimer’s Society published an article in their Living With Dementia magazine that quoted the findings of Jane Fossey, a renowned clinical psychologist. A trustee of the Society for Companion Animal Studies, Fossey is convinced that interaction with animals can have a profound effect on care home residents’ health, reducing blood pressure, helping to relieve anxiety, encouraging interaction with other people and even helping to improve the quality of sleep. Her research shows that spending time with a pet is helpful in reducing the agitation that so often occurs during the late afternoon for people with dementia.

Improved Mobility and Social Engagement

In 2012 Sarah Dyke published the results of her research into the impact of canine interaction on nursing home residents’ health. Her study revealed that, even where residents had never owned a dog in the past, they still benefited in numerous ways, from improving their state of mind to promoting social interaction. A further benefit showed that residents were more likely to undertake exercise when a dog was present, as they were encouraged to play with the animal and take it for short walks.

Care home staff are becoming aware of the profound social and psychological benefits of introducing animals to residents. They report that, following a visit from a therapy animal, even those residents who have shown a reluctance to eat are more likely to have a good appetite, with dementia patients showing a marked reduction in stress and confusion. People who struggle to hold a conversation find it easy to engage with an animal, and forming a bond with another living creature can help to provide a temporary distraction to pain and discomfort.

With such positive feedback resulting from animal visits, and the clear signs that these visits are improving residents’ health, many care homes are now considering allowing potential residents to bring their pets with them into care, which is a move that will be welcomed by elderly people up and down the country.

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