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The Importance of Animals in Care

Bridge House Dog Show 2016

“Animals are such agreeable friends – they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms” – George Eliot, British Novelist, 1818-1880.

Therapy animals are well known for dramatically improving the lives of blind and disabled people, but the inclusion of animals in dementia care is an emerging trend with seemingly limitless value.

Founded in 1983, Pets As Therapy is a national charity on a mission to enhance health and wellbeing in the care sector through the visits of trusted volunteers with their behaviourally assessed animals. Here at Bridge House Care Home in Abingdon, animal and ‘Pets As Therapy’ visits form just part of a vast activity programme for our residents. We pride ourselves on understanding each and every one of our residents as individuals, and we tailor this activity schedule to provide comfort, support… And most importantly, fun!

Although there is no cure for dementia, research shows that purposeful occupation can be highly therapeutic and can slow the progression of conditions such as Alzheimer’s. When in the company of visiting animals, residents will often recall happy memories of family pets from the past. What makes this fascinating is that carers will often never have heard mention of these pets until the memories come flooding back upon contact with the animals.

So why is the use of creatures great and small so effective in care homes? Research suggests animals provide companionship that is free from words, judgement or expectation; leaving residents fully able to relax into the company of their furry friends. Fear, anxiety and confusion can sometimes form part of a daily experience for our residents who live with dementia. When animals have been to visit, there is a noticeable extra sense of calm and wellbeing throughout Bridge House. Pet Therapist Jenny Garlick of Nightingale Dogs describes this connection wonderfully, saying:

“Our dogs have assisted many residents with different needs and they certainly have unique skills that reach into people’s hearts. They can ‘see’ things in people that we humans cannot, and that’s what makes them so wonderful.”

This summer at Bridge House we’ve continued to find ways to show our appreciation for these furry friends. For a second consecutive year we hosted the annual ‘Bridge House Dog Show’ where friends, families and Abingdon locals brought along pooches of all shapes and sizes to be placed in the running for fabulous titles such as ‘Best Dressed’, ‘Waggiest Tail’ and ‘Quickest to Find the Sausage’! Our panel, comprised entirely of residents (of course), had some very tough decisions to make with so many adorable entrants taking part, but all were well and truly put through their paces. We’re already looking forward to the 2017 edition…

For more information about the organisations mentioned in this blog, please use the following links:

https://nightingaledogs.co.uk/

https://petsastherapy.org/