Tuesday, 19 June 2018

THERE'S NOTHING QUITE LIKE A PUPPY

Two weeks ago, my husband Jim and I drove a couple of hours west from our house into the countryside where we pulled into the driveway of an old, red brick farmhouse. We were greeted by a symphony of barking. In a few minutes, we would be introduced to the newest member of our family - a golden retriever puppy. Meet our Daisy! 


We are in the thick of puppy heaven, so naturally I began to think about the role of pets in caregiving. I did a bit of online research and discovered a wonderful charity that's active in the USA and Canada called Pet Partners. I decided to get in touch and ask them some questions about how pets can foster wellbeing in patients and their caring families. Here's what I learned. 



What are the services that you offer to patients and families who would benefit from Pet Partners? 

We encourage individuals seeking therapy animal visits to work with a healthcare provider to see about setting up therapy animal visits. For insurance and liability reasons, visits from Pet Partners therapy animal teams must be coordinated through a care organization, with a staff member for the coordinating organization present during the visit. We have a section of our website where care organizations can request volunteer team visits: https://petpartners.org/learn/pet-partners-at-your-facility/add-a-volunteer-opportunity/ NOTE: Call your nursing provider or seniors center and ask them to request a visit from a Pet Partners therapy animal if you think it would be good for your family.

Do you offer home visits or only institutional visits? 

At present, home visits are possible, but they must meet the guidelines described in the paragraph above. The teams making home visits we know of currently are doing so through hospice or home health agencies. We hope that we might be able to offer more direct coordination of home visits in the future.

Does your Walk With Me program offer walking with pets and seniors in their neighborhoods? 

For the liability reasons mentioned above, we recommend that all visits, including Walk With Me visits, be coordinated with a care organization. However, as we expand the Walk With Me initiative, we hope to resolve these issues and make this initiative something that can be offered on a more informal community basis.

Is there anything else I should tell family caregivers about Pet Partners?

Therapy animal visits can offer measurable health benefits both for people dealing with health issues and for caregivers. While research shows that the presence of an animal, including a family pet, can be beneficial in many circumstances, Pet Partners therapy animal teams come with education, screening, and registration that confirms their suitability to provide animal-assisted interventions safely, and liability insurance to reduce risk. More information on the research underlying the benefits of the human-animal bond is available HERE

Pet Partners is the largest therapy animal organization in the United States (it's in Canada too!) registering therapy animal teams (a team is one human handler and one animal) to provide animal-assisted interventions. We register nine different types of animals: dogs, cats, equines (horses, ponies, and donkeys), rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, birds (primarily in the parrot family), miniature pigs, and camelids (llamas and alpacas). We are currently the only national therapy animal organization to register many of these species. Our volunteer therapy animal teams make over three million visits each year, offering the benefits of the human-animal bond to people in a variety of healthcare and therapeutic settings, as well as our Read With Me initiative promoting childhood literacy, and our Walk With Me initiative promoting movement for health. We are also expanding our program internationally. 

I am already benefitting from the joys and mental health benefits of being with Daisy. She makes me laugh and I'm sure lowers my blood pressure. I've also met many of my neighbors. I can attest to the fact that puppies are an antidote to social isolation and grumpy dispositions! They are always friendly and they're always in a happy mood. 

If you or your loved one don't want the responsibility of pet ownership, but would enjoy an animal visit occasionally, consider asking to 'babysit' a neighbour's cat or well behaved dog for an hour once a week. Being with our furry friends is good for the soul. 
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