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Aged Care Health Mental Health News

Sometimes the best therapy involves fur and four legs

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Dog as the best form of therapy for aged care residents

Aged care specialist VMCH is looking to companion dogs as an alternative form of therapy for its residents.

Have you ever owned a dog? If so, you’ll know why they’re known as man’s (or woman’s!) best friend. Dogs offer unconditional love and bring joy, laughter and a bit of fun to those around them,” VMCH said in a statement.

That’s why VMCH is launching its “Pawfect Companions’ program”, to enrich the lives of older people in its 11 aged care residences. With community support, VMCH hopes to fund fortnightly dog therapy sessions for over 980 residents for the next two years.

VMCH has partnered with another not-for-profit organisation, who believe the human-animal bond leads to a more enriched and fulfilled life – for both humans and dogs.

Their belief is scientifically backed, with therapy animals proven to have a positive impact on individual’s social, emotional, physical and physiological health, improving quality of life and wellbeing.

“As a not-for-profit organisation, we don’t receive funding for programs like this. But we do like to go the extra mile for the people we support and do what we can to further enrich their lives,” says VMCH CEO Sonya Smart.

“Many of our residents had pet dogs before they moved into residential aged care, and often talk of their beloved companions,” Smart said.

“Pet therapy is good for everyone; it’s uplifting and makes everyone happy. When we have had a pet visit, even if people just sit back and watch, it’s amazing to see the joy in everyone’s faces,” said Shanagolden Aged Care resident Bernie.

All aged care residents have really done it tough recently. During the COVID-19 pandemic, when visits from loved ones stopped, social outings became impossible and boredom set in, the focus became on creating entertainment within their home.

“We’re always asking, what else can we do to help keep our residents’ days interesting and fun? How can we help individuals come together? Ease loneliness? Bring smiles to their faces,” Smart said.

“Donations will also help us purchase some interactive ‘companion dogs’ that have built-in sensor technology, so they respond to petting and motion, much like real-life pets. These dogs provide comfort, companionship, help to reduce stress and are always available to our residents in between ‘real-life’ dog visits. We hope members of the community will consider helping us to enhance the lives of our aged care residents,” she said.

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