Pet therapy can change the ‘energy’ of a long-term care home: Streamway volunteer

Duffy, a British golden retriever, is a St. John Ambulance therapy dog who has visited Streamway Villa with his owner, Lisa Denvir. Due to protocols to keep residents and staff safe during the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic, there is currently no pet-therapy programming at OMNI Health Care long-term care homes.

Lisa Denvir, who has visited Streamway Villa with her therapy dog Duffy, says animals bring many benefits to residents

When dogs and cats visit a long-term care home with their handlers for pet therapy programs, residents often develop a connection with the animal that remains after the session has ended, says Lisa Denvir.

Lisa has seen this first-hand. She and her British golden retriever Duffy are a St. John Ambulance therapy dog team. They began visiting the Cobourg long-term care home about a year ago.

During their visits, Lisa and Duffy meet with residents and their family members for some time together in a common area, and then the pair has one-to-one visits with residents in their rooms.

Lisa says she sees a lot of value in pet-therapy programs at long-term care homes.

“I think it’s very important because it has so many benefits and so few detractors,” she says.

“We have been told a number of times that the energy of the home is different after we have left. The residents have been calmer, and the residents are a little more cheerful.

“A lot of the residents don’t have regular visitors but this way they have somebody who is always happy to see them.”

During pet-therapy sessions at long-term care homes, the dog or the cat will show love and affection that’s “automatic,” Lisa adds.

“If they just want to pet the dog, the dog is very happy with that,” she says.

Another benefit of pet therapy in long-term care is that animals can help family members – especially young children – better connect with a resident.

“(A) pet gives them something to do together; they can all pet the dog together,” Lisa says. “This is really nice and it builds community because everybody gets their turn petting the dog.”

Due to the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic, Streamway Villa, along with OMNI Health Care’s other 17 long-term care homes, is closed to all but essential visitors and programming, including pet therapy, is on hold at the moment.

This is Part 3 of a three-part story.

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