Pet visits help respite clients feel at home

A pet-visiting initiative involving dogs is bringing smiles to respite clients with dementia and improving their participation in group activities.

A pet-visiting initiative involving two French Bulldogs is bringing smiles to respite clients with dementia and improving their participation in group activities.

The initiative is running at Life Care’s Norman House in Everard Park, South Australia, which provides day and overnight respite services.

It involves French Bulldogs Barry and Zara visiting more than 40 respite clients with dementia twice a week to provide company and help them feel at home.

Life Care’s Norman House team leader Kirsty Chivers, who owns the dogs, said that pets could have a positive affect a person’s wellbeing and especially people with dementia.

Life Care respite client John Russell with French Bulldogs
Barry and Zara

“Many of our guests have owned pets before and speak of how much they miss them and what they used to get up to.

“We thought bringing my dogs, Barry and Zara, to Norman House would help them to feel more at home while staying with us,” Ms Chivers told Australian Ageing Agenda.

“The initiative works particularly well for respite care as the dogs help new and infrequent guests to settle into an unfamiliar setting,” she said.

Ms Chivers said there was also a lot of research showing that pets could  help reduce anxiety, depression and  loneliness.

She said Barry and Zara’s visits have lifted the mood and improved self-esteem of the respite residents.

“We found the dogs quickly brought smiles to our guests and made them more inclined to take part in games and activities,” Ms Chivers said.

“Dementia has deteriorated many of our guests’ cognitive function. They can’t remember our staff’s names or each other’s, but almost everyone knows the dogs’ names,” she said.

The respite clients look forward to visiting the facility because they know they will spend time and play with the dogs, Ms Chivers said.

She said the initiative could be expanded to other Life Care sites if others were interested in doggy play dates.

“If there were demands for canine company at our other sites, I’m sure Barry and Zara would be up for it,” Ms Chivers said.

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Tags: dementia, kirsty chivers, Life Care, life care norman house, respite, respite care, wellbeing,

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