Friday, April 12, 2013

K is for Kindness through Animal Assisted Therapy - A to Z April Challenge

This morning Sophia, Olivia, and I spent some time at a local nursing home with our cat Eenie.

A resident enjoyed a visit with Eenie and Sophia.

Eenie had visited residents at St. Therese (a nursing home) during October-November 2011 when my Dad was a resident there because of the progression of Alzheimer's Disease.

My Dad enjoyed seeing Eenie when we would bring him on visits to the nursing home; and we also would bring Eenie around to see other residents in both the Palliative/Hospice and Alzheimer's Disease/Dementia units if my Dad fell asleep or after our visit was done.

Olivia and Sophia with Eenie.
They were trying to help him get comfortable walking in a hallway
at the nursing home before visiting residents.

We were curious to see how Eenie would do at another nursing home, and with meeting a variety of new people.

Eenie sat on almost every resident's lap that we visited.
With some residents, he chose to sit in a nearby chair or
next to their bed. It was almost as if he knew
where the best place to sit and keep people company.

Having pets visit people in nursing homes is not new. In fact, animal assisted therapy was first reported back in the late 18th century at York Retreat in England. In that case, animals were used with people who were mentally ill.

Patients at York Retreat would wander the grounds which contained a population of small domestic animals. The animals were believed to be effective tools for socialization.

In 1860, the Bethlem Hospital in England followed the same trend and added animals to the ward, greatly influencing the morale of the patients.

Currently, according to Wikipedia, "animal assisted therapy draws on the bond between animals and humans in order to help improve and maintain an individual’s function and is being used to assist in the process of enhancing the individual’s quality of life in nursing homes."

One resident lit up when she saw that we had a cat.
Her face radiated happiness when she was able 
to talk with and pet Eenie.

Wikipedia continued, "The goal of using to improve the person’s social, emotional, and cognitive functioning and reduce passivity." It has been noted that when people are transferred to a nursing home, they often can become agitated, depressed, passive, withdrawn, and inactive because of the loss of loved ones and/or lack of regular visitors.

Supporters of animal assisted therapy believe that animals can be helpful in motivating residents at nursing homes to be active physically and mentally, keeping their bodies healthy and minds sharp.

This gentleman who normally has difficulty expressing himself
due to a limited vocabulary (because of a medical condition)
was able to say, "We had two cats" when asked if he had any cats.
He continued trying to share his thoughts and talk with us
while he petted Eenie who sat in his lap and walked between his legs.
He had never tried to converse with us before when we visited him.
It was as if Eenie opened a door to his mind, and 
allowed him to recall important memories.

For people who have dementia, hands-on interactions with animals - most typically cats and dogs -  are the most important aspect. Animal assisted therapy, like we were able to do with Eenie, provides people with opportunities to have close physical contact with a cat's warm bodies, feel his heartbeat, touch his soft fur, notice his big eyes, and giving hugs.

Residents shared stories with us about their lives 
prior to being at the nursing home.
We heard about living on a farm with work horses, cows, pigs,
chickens, dogs, and cats from this resident.

This was such a wonderful way to spend part of our morning; and I know that the residents were very happy to have had the opportunity to spent time with Eenie (as well as Sophia, Olivia, and me). 

Homeschooling gives us the opportunity to spend time volunteering and doing animal assisted therapy. It also gives the Sophia and Olivia practice on developing positive character kindness.


Sylvia Ney said...

Wonderful! New follower here. I'm stopping by from the "A to Z" challenge and I look forward to visiting again.


Jodie said...

What an amazing gift you are giving your children & the elderly. K is for kindness!

mare ball said...

My daughter-in-law works in an animal hospital and fully believes animals are a true blessing to the disabled on many levels. I have seen this too. Such sweet girls you have!
from The Dugout