Hardi Aged Care is a firm believer in the positive benefits of pet therapy for our residents. Our staff agree that pet therapy helps reduce tension, fatigue and confusion in residents and that it can also increase their enthusiasm, brightness and overall interest in life.
Pet therapy also allows our residents to maintain a human and animal bond, and to receive that unconditional affection which is particularly special to animal lovers. A wide variety of domestic and farm animals have regularly brought joy to Hardi residents over the years. These animal visitors include – horses, dogs, goats and kids, sheep and lambs, guinea pigs, rabbits, chickens, ducks and ducklings – to name just a few. We also have our own resident cat, Wendy, at our Manly Vale facility, who lives on site and is dearly loved by many residents. Animal visits help our residents reminisce about their past experiences with pets, or with animals on farms, and often bring back happy memories.
Hardi Seven Hills residents were recently thrilled to be visited by a gentle specialist pet therapy horse, Bushman, an 18-year-old appaloosa quarter horse. Bushman’s owner Christie Hall, says like just her, this one-in-a-million horse was destined to work in aged care pet therapy. Christie used to work as a nurse in high care dementia facilities. One day she took her horse into work and she knew from the extraordinary reactions Bushman elicited from the most withdrawn residents, she was onto a very good thing. Today, Bushman is a full-time pet therapy horse with Christie and the two of them love their work together, bringing joy to aged care residents. Christie says it is Bushman’s impact on resident senses that is the most powerful.
“The smell of horse seems to make memories come back for people like ‘lighting a match’. Bushman loves to be touched and even with wheelchair-bound residents, he gently rests his chin, tickles with his whiskers, then breathes and nudges until he gets a reaction!” she explains. According to Colette Joyce, Facility Manager at Seven Hills, the addition of Bushman to their existing pet therapy program has been a great hit with residents.
“We find animals can be extremely therapeutic for our residents, both physically and emotionally. Especially for residents suffering from depression (quite common as a result of moving to aged care), contact with animals can really help bring them out of their shell,” she explained. “Bushman was a total charmer and we have received such positive feedback about his first visit to Seven Hills that he will now be returning regularly. There is tremendous excitement when he visits and the joy that radiates from our residents as a result, is a truly wonderful thing to behold,” added Colette.
Through the Delta Society (a heart-warming program that spreads the joy of animal companionship), specialist pet therapy dogs also visit most Hardi homes regularly. Other dogs visit some of our facilities with volunteers too, and sometimes family dogs even come in, when loved ones visit residents. Our Lifestyle Co-ordinators say resident faces typically light up when they see dogs or other animals in their home. This is no surprise when you consider that according to the Delta Society, companion animals bring joy to the lives of 12 million Australians. There is also increasing evidence that companion animals are good for health and wellbeing. These benefits include:
- Physical – interaction with a furry friend reduces blood pressure, provides tactile stimulation, assists with pain management, gives motivation to move and stimulates the senses;
- Social – a visit with a dog provides a positive mutual topic for discussion, promotes greater self-esteem and well being, and focused interaction with others;
- Cognitive – canine companionship often stimulates memory, problem solving and game playing;
- Emotional – an adorable four-legged visitor improves self-esteem, has a calming effect and lifts mood, often provoking laughter; and, Environmental – a dog in a facility decreases the feeling of a sterile environment, lifts mood and this often continues after the visit. The Delta Society also says that pet therapy particularly helps in aged care because of its psychological and physiological benefits:
- Elderly pet owners who must enter aged care facilities report feelings of loss when they have to leave their pets behind;
- Pets provide one of the few interventions capable of permanently lifting the atmosphere of nursing homes; and,
- Pet therapy has been proven to provide many of the benefits of pet ownership. Hardi’s Blacktown, Seven Hills and Summer Hill facilities also recently had Kindifarm visits which our residents loved.
Kindifarm takes farm animals into nursing homes and encourages residents to hold small pets like rabbits, guinea pigs, chicks and ducklings, to bottle feed baby animals like lambs and kids and to pat other bigger animals, like sheep, goats and miniature horses. Lifestyle Co-ordinator, Karen Bourke, explains that Kindifarm often visits Blacktown during school holidays to help encourage grandchildren to visit. “Our last Kindifarm visit was great for enhancing quality time for our residents with their family members, especially grandchildren”, she said.
Hardi Penrith is also in the midst of constructing its own chicken pen to allow residents to build relationships with each other by helping to raise and care for the facility chickens. According to Facility Manager Amy Walton, the project will see the eggs hatched in an incubator on site and it is hoped, will eventually result in the production of eggs, which can be used for cooking! To find out more about local pet therapy programs and when they are happening at your facility, please check out the group event calnder. https://www.hardiagedcare.com.au/news-events/upcoming-events/