Pets As Therapy (PAT) in Care Homes
For many people, moving into a care home can be a lonely and frightening experience, but there is a charity that aims to bring comfort and companionship to care home residents in a rather different way.
Pets as Therapy is a registered charity founded in 1983, which brings animals into care homes, hospitals, hospices, day centres and other establishments. For people who are feeling lonely or withdrawn, be they elderly residents away from their families, people suffering from illnesses such as dementia, or people with disabilities who cannot communicate easily, these pets bring comfort and a means of interaction with others.
Since 1983, over 23,000 animals have been registered with the scheme, and according to the Pets As Therapy website, there are currently more than 4500 PAT dogs, and 108 PAT cats at work in the UK. Over the course of a year, they rack up 6.75 million visits to residents/patients.
Pets As Therapy operates throughout the UK, and is staffed by volunteers. All pets are thoroughly assessed prior to joining, to ensure that they have the right temperament, and most wear fluorescent yellow jackets to show they are “on duty”.
Research continues to show that the effects of stroking an animal can be very beneficial. These include:
- Initiating communication with those who cannot, or will not normally, communicate.
- Lowering blood pressure.
- Reducing stress.
- Helping interaction both with people and with the animals.
- Helping residents who have had to leave their own pets feel more at home.
- Physical activity.
And it’s not only cats and dogs that come to visit; some care homes have had much more exotic - though somewhat less cuddly visitors, including snakes, monkeys and penguins.
If you would like someone to bring animals in to visit the residents of your care home, there are a few options available to you. You can request a visit from Pets As Therapy to your care home, and one or more local volunteers will bring pets to you, often on a regular basis, so that residents really get to know them and get used to them. However, this is dependent upon there being volunteers in your area. You may have a bit of a wait if there aren’t any available.
Alternatively, you can invest in a “home pet”, be it a cat, or a dog, or even a budgie, which will belong to the home. And some homes allow visitors to bring in their own or their family members’ pets, but you should seek further advice before doing this.
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