Right at Home UK has recruited its first Pet Therapy dog!
Meet Tally, who is trained up and ready to make a difference in her own way as she visits clients in the areas around Guildford, Farnham, Fleet, Aldershot and Farnborough.
Tally belongs to office owner Alastair Shanks, who said: “I am delighted that our clients are going to have a chance to meet Tally. She is a wonderful, loving dog and I am sure will bring a lot of happiness to our clients, just as she has to my family. My children absolutely adore her and she is also great with my grandparents.”
Pet Therapy has evolved through an understanding that an undemanding animal that offers unconditional love can make a noticeable difference to people living with dementia.
While companionship is an obvious benefit, a well-timed pet visit can also help with agitation, depression, and anxiety. It is quite common to see someone change from withdrawn and emotionless to animated and joyful when a pet enters the room, especially if it triggers pleasant memories.
Mara Baun, D.Sc., a professor in the Department of Continuing Care at the University of Texas-Houston School of Nursing, has been researching the benefits of therapy animals for people with dementia for over a decade, both with visiting dogs and resident dogs.
In one of her studies, she and her team compared degrees of social interaction of adults in an Alzheimer’s unit with and without the presence of a dog.
“When they had the pet with them, they had more interactive behaviours, although some of them were aimed at the dog, not at the person,” she says. Her work has shown this effect is consistent whether the dog and dementia patients interact one-on-one or in a group setting.
In addition to stimulating a social response, dementia patients may benefit from:
- Reduced agitation: Agitation, common among dementia patients, is reduced in the presence of a dog.
- Physical activity: Depending on a patient’s mobility, they may be able to groom the animal, toss a ball, or even go for a short walk.
- Improved eating: Dementia patients have been shown to eat more following a dog’s visit.
- Pleasure: Some patients simply enjoy the presence of the dog and its human companion.
Further research, presented at the International Congress of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych) 2014, suggests that a structured animal-assisted intervention (AAI) program may improve social interaction in elderly patients with dementia. A pilot study, conducted in Germany, showed a significant increase in time spent in verbal communication, physical contact, and attentiveness among people with dementia when a dog was present at weekly therapy sessions, versus when there was no dog.
Tally will play an important role within the Right at Home Dementia Delay Programme and the team are delighted to have her on board.