Pets provide therapy in care homes

"Residents faces light up at the sight of Merlin"

Gill Lazenby and her 5 year old Golden Retriever, Merlin are welcome weekly visitors to Forest Oaks residential and nursing care home in Brockenhurst, where they happily spend a few hours with the residents catching up while everyone fusses the dog.

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Pets As Therapy volunteers, Gill and Merlin have been visiting Forest Oaks for nearly 18 months now and have made many good friends there.

Having had retrievers for years, Gill got Merlin, a rescue dog, when he was only 9 months old, Gill told me that she felt Merlin’s calm and friendly temperament would be perfect as a Pets As Therapy volunteer and she was right. Her vet agreed, gave a full assessment and recommendation and they have been making friends in their local care home and hospice ever since.

“As soon as I put his uniform on Merlin knows he’s on duty and remains calm and relaxed, happily visiting all his regular patients, allowing them to shower him with attention, he loves it.”

As for the benefits, one particular resident who is both hard of hearing and visually impaired and had been withdrawn for some time, immediately brightened, “her face lit up when Merlin came in” and every week she looks forward to seeing Merlin and knows immediately when he walks in the door, it’s a Thursday.

Every morning when Gill arrives she liaises with the Activities Coordinator and finds out who would like a visit. They visit the residents having coffee in the sun lounge, say hello to everyone, Merlin shakes paws and if there is anyone in their room who is unable to get up but still wants to see Merlin, they get a special one-to-one visit.

As for the benefits, there are some residents who have always had pets and miss having dogs, one resident just loves Merlin coming into her room and simply wants him to fall asleep at her feet, to remind her of past canine companions. For those residents who always had pets it makes them feel much more at home to come downstairs and join their friends, chat and pet Merlin. They find it relaxing and calming.

Those who might be visually impaired love the touch of stroking the dog and their faces light up at the touch of him.

One resident currently suffering from Parkinson’s finds it greatly calming to pet Merlin, it makes her feel a lot better.

Therapeutic benefits of Pets as Therapy:

  • Calming
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Lowers heart rate
  • Sociable
  • Residents benefit from a special bond
  • Encourages residents to talk, interact with others where previously they might not.

Other residents are lucky enough to have friends bringing their own pets in to visit on occasion, which is reassuring and makes them feel they really are in a ‘home from home’.

Founded in 1983, Pets As Therapy is a community based national charity which provides therapeutic visits to hospices, nursing and care homes, special needs schools and a variety of other establishments from volunteers with their pet dogs and cats.

Since its beginning over 28,000 dogs have become registered PAT dogs. Every year some of these dogs need to retire and new dogs, having first passed a health, temperament and suitably assessment, start volunteering.

At present there are approximately 4,500 active PAT dogs working throughout the UK. Every week visiting PAT teams bring comfort and companionship to 1,000’s of people, both young and old, giving them the opportunity to stroke, hold and talk to one of these calm and friendly pets.



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