Animals are friends to people of all ages. Dogs, cats, fish, rabbits – they can all give companionship, support and help improve physical and mental wellbeing.
At Brendoncare, animal visits to care homes play an important role in how we improve the lives of our residents.
Before the pandemic, many of our homes received regular visits from Pets As Therapy (PAT) dogs, which was hugely beneficial for residents and their wellbeing. During lockdown, mechanical cats and dogs were purchased for our residents as an alternative companion.
With care homes open again, Brendoncare are receiving visits from various animals across our homes once more.
What are the benefits of animal visits to care homes?
Animal visits to care home have such a positive effect on residents and their wellbeing. Animals are a great source of joy and companionship.
Rebecca Spicer, Volunteer and Activity Manager at Brendoncare, said: ‘Wellbeing is so much more than the word games and outings. Bringing animals to show our residents adds an element of home: a visiting PAT dog, social farm experience or even a pet animal for the home adds to this.
Animals bring love and comfort to our residents, and for them the nurturing feeling of caring or parenting something is familiar. In practice all residents have a natural instinct to stroke a dog, hold a chick or pet a horse. It’s those integrated moments that are engrained in our memories that give us that warm fuzzy ‘good’ feeling in our tummy.’
Animals offer unconditional love and companionship. Sometimes, they provide a level of companionship that people can’t.
One study has found that nursing home residents reported less loneliness when visited by dogs alone than when they spent time with dogs and other people.
Some of our homes also benefit from mechanical pets for companionship, a great alternative to animal visits and a constant friend for residents.
Reminiscing on precious memories
Animal visits to care homes can bring back fond memories for residents, with many remembering previous pets or happy times with friends and family when they encounter visiting animals.
Brendoncare Alton have recently been visited by a range of farm animals and for one resident it was a special afternoon for him as he reminisced about the pig farm he used to run and remembered precious memories for him and his family – whilst stroking a pig!
Animals give residents a break in routine and something they can look forward to.
But that’s not all – research suggests that animals and their calming nature and affection can offer health benefits such as lowering people’s blood pressure and heart rate, increasing levels of oxytocin (the stress-reducing hormone) and decreasing the production of the stress hormone cortisol in people’s bodies.
We love seeing our residents’ excitement when they get to hold a duckling or stroke a donkey. But their lovely smiles isn’t the only benefit of petting these animals.
Stroking an animal’s fur/feathers, hearing their unique sounds, holding them in your lap, feeding them and grooming them: these interactions provide great sensory stimulation for residents and are particularly beneficial for people with dementia.
Brendoncare Park Road helped welcome some baby ducklings into the world recently. Alongside the familiar caring and nurturing aspects that bring back familiar feelings, cuddling and petting the ducks also provided sensory stimulation.