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A visit from Paws PT: how animal therapy benefits our residents

 

Increasing numbers of medical practitioners are recognising the benefits that come from the therapeutic use of animals to help ease the symptoms of a number of physical and mental health complaints. Numerous studies have shown that time spent in the presence of an animal can alter our physical, cognitive and emotional responses.

What is pet therapy?

Also referred to as animal-assisted interventions (AAI) or animal-assisted therapy (AAT), pet therapy is a form of complementary treatment that utilises animal interactions to help improve certain physical, psychological and emotional health issues. Put simply, animal therapy capitalises on the natural healing ability of spending time with animals, to help make us feel better.

 

The benefits of animal therapy

Pet therapy can benefit anyone, but particularly the elderly, by:

  • Promoting relaxation: Research has shown that stroking an animal releases endorphins which help to relax the body and mind. This is particularly beneficial to those who may be experiencing agitation, frustration or confusion with the onset of age-related memory loss.
  • Providing comfort: Through the provision of their calming source of support and reassurance, animals help to ease anxiety. The unconditional affection we receive from our pets helps us to feel loved and more emotionally stable. Animals can bring us comfort, joy and happiness. Just stroking an animal fulfils the basic human need for touch and provides sensory stress relief.
  • Combating loneliness: Time spent with animals can boost emotional wellbeing following traumatic experiences, such as the loss of a loved one or serious illness. Animal interactions can also be particularly effective in helping to deal with loss, loneliness, and other situations that may otherwise cause depression or anxiety. Pet therapy can help people, including those in care homes, to reduce any feelings of social isolation.
  • Encouraging exercise: Staying as physically active as we are able to becomes increasingly important as we get older. Pet therapy helps to keep people active and boosts energy levels by encouraging healthy lifestyle changes. It also encourages people to spend time meeting and engaging with other people. 
  • Promoting good health: Pets are also good for our hearts, and not just as a result of their unconditional love and affection. Spending time with animals has been linked to a reduction in the risk of heart disease and has been shown to improve overall cardiovascular health. Separate research has also demonstrated that regular exposure to cats or dogs could reduce the risk of developing certain cancers. This has been attributed to the immune-boosting allergens in their fur. Meanwhile, a Cambridge University study found that people who own pets report fewer minor ailments like headaches, coughs and colds, according to Age UK. HelpGuide.org have also discovered that: “Pet owners over age 65 make 30% fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets.”
  • Providing purpose: Spending time with, or caring for, an animal can help to reduce boredom, offer a greater sense of purpose and a reason for living. Whether it’s the daily feeding and care of a pet, or receiving regular visits from an animal with their handler. Routine provides positive structure and gives people something to enjoy and look forward to. Pets can also be a wonderful source of fun; helping to keep us entertained and enjoying life.
  • Boosting self-esteem: Animals have a unique way of bringing people out of themselves. We can often see an increase in residents smiling or speaking in the presence of a pet. Through building self-confidence and reducing anxiety, animal-assisted therapies can help to increase verbal communication and improve interactions with others, really helping to boost social wellbeing.

 

A visit from Paws Pet Therapy

Based on the grounds of Bartlett’s Residential Home, Paws PT provides a friendly and reliable dog training service to meet the needs of both clients and their dogs.

As care specialists, Peverel Court Care know how much of a positive impact animal therapy can have on those living with dementia. That’s why we welcomed Paws PT to our two homes in Aylesbury, Stone House and Bartlett’s Residential Care Home.

When visiting our homes, Paws PT dogs help improve the lives of our residents, including those living with dementia, by bettering motor skills, making them feel happier and lifted, encouraging interaction and also triggering reminiscing conversations.  

Making invaluable connections and partnerships with organisations such as Paws PT helps us to enrich the lives of those residing with us, many of whom are living with dementia. And as we’ve identified, interaction with pets has well-documented benefits to older people mentally, emotionally and physically, by improving emotional, social and cognitive abilities

 

A visit from Paws PT how animal therapy benefits our residents at Peverel Court Care

 

The view from Paws PT

We spoke to Jen, the owner of Paws PT, to find out more about her business and how she has found visiting our residents with her dogs:

 

Tell us a little about your business and how you came to be doing what you’re doing.

I started dog training back in 2016 and originally it was just me, but over the years we’ve grown both the team and the number of dogs we have, which has been really fun. What we offer is quite bespoke, quite personalised training. Our clients come to us with a list of challenges that they have with their dogs, and we work with them to help them find solutions. So it’s very much tailored to the dog and the individual needs of their owner. It’s quite a broad scale; we work with rescuers who do a lot with working dogs and pets who are working breeds. We also do a lot of family fun sessions in the summer. But really, dog training is about people building.

 

How did you come to work with Peverel Court Care?

We have land at the bottom of the garden at Bartlett’s that we use for dog training. and one of the ladies got in touch to ask whether we could bring our dogs into the home. The first time we came, we did a Christmas visit for the residents with one of our spaniels and our oldest terrier.

 

What are the benefits for older adults?

We go round to meet the residents and we had one lovely encounter with a lady that we now know hadn’t really communicated much until then. She sat with one of our dogs and just chatted to him for ages and it was really lovely. That was the first time I really realised just how much more animals could do for humans than humans are able to do for humans sometimes.”

 

What impact and outcomes did you see for the residents?

The impact that the visits from our dogs have on the residents really varies. But we’ve discovered that a lot of the residents have had dogs, have had animals, or have wanted to have animals during their lives. And it’s a great connection point. You’re talking about something that’s in the room, which really opens up the conversation and allows people just to be in a different world, or even in a different time. A lot of them will critique training methods that they used to use with their dogs. They’re sharing breed specific knowledge, sometimes really, really intense breed specific knowledge, which is fantastic. And they really, really enjoy the interaction, that physical contact with the dogs and engagement. But mainly it’s just the conversation that opens up and the amount that they communicate with the dogs is amazing. We met one lady who, when we visit, actually squeals with delight. 

There have also been some laughs. Like when one of our dogs went off with a member of staff and they came back with just the lead in their hand. The dog had found the kitchen and didn’t want to come back, which the residents really enjoyed as well.

 

How did you find spending time with our residents?

It’s really nice. It’s a privilege to watch the joy our dogs bring to people. All of our team who’ve been into the Peverel Court Care homes have really enjoyed watching the way our dogs engage with different residents. Sometimes you can just see that there’s more of a connection and it is really fascinating to watch. It’s interesting to see how perceptive the dogs are as well. One dog that can be quite lively will be sat totally still with its head on the lap of a particular resident. It’s all about the connection with the residents and the dogs and just allowing them to interact.

 

Feedback from residents:

We asked some of our residents about their experience of Paws PT visiting them at our homes:

What did you think of the experience?

Angela Lloyd (resident): “It was good thank you, I enjoy it when the animals visit me in my room. The ladies who visit with them are also nice.”

Fiona (daughter of our resident Heather): “Mum and I enjoyed it! Mum has photos of her families’ dogs on the walls in her room. She mentioned how her mother brought Staffordshire bull terriers home from India!”

Olive (resident): “I love it when the dogs visit, I remember a couple of them by name now! The spaniels are my favourite!” [laughing]

 

Would you like to experience it again?

Heather (resident): “Yes, I would, I really enjoy visits from the dogs and enjoy giving them treats.”

Angela (resident): “Yes, I would. If the weather is nice next time, I would like to take them for a walk!”

Olive (resident): “Yes definitely, they are always welcome to visit me!”

 

Paws PT pet therapy now regularly visit Bartlett’s Residential Care Home and Stone House, Aylesbury as part of our sense & sensory range of activities.

 

About Peverel Court Care

Peverel Court Care is a group of one residential and two nursing homes, located in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire: Bartlett’s Residential Care Home and Stone House Nursing Home in Aylesbury, and Merryfield House Nursing Home in Witney. We are a long-standing family business, providing exceptional, personalised care, delivered by talented and compassionate people, in exclusive and idyllic settings.

With happiness at the heart of our homes, we recognise and respect the contribution made by our residents to society during their lifetimes. Valued by residents and their families; our reputation, investment in each property, and approach to appointing and developing our staff makes each home unique and the benchmark in premium care.

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