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How Pet Therapy Brings Joy and Healing to Home Care and Hospice Patients

By: Integrity Home Care + Hospice

“Sometimes, the best medicine is a dog who thinks their love can cure you.” —Unknown

Integrity Home Care + Hospice agrees—and one of the ways we differentiate ourselves from other home care and hospice agencies is by providing various pet therapies to our clients and patients through our partnership with the Alliance Of Therapy Pets in Springfield, MO. The benefits from pet therapy or pet-assisted activities are numerous—among the host of benefits, according to the Mayo Clinic, “Animal-assisted therapy can significantly reduce pain, anxiety, depression and fatigue in people with a range of health problems.”

One of Integrity Home Care’s Volunteer Coordinators, Kathy Moore, agrees, stating that pets can provide companionship, affection, and social interaction needed to help seniors who live alone overcome loneliness, isolation, and depression. Moore says, “The love that pets deliver is an unconditional love, which means everything—their loyalty and friendship is priceless!” 

Often overlooked when an individual’s health begins to decline, is the unfortunate need to give away their long-time family pet, due to their inability to care for it any longer. Since the human-animal bond is so strong, this loss can be felt quite acutely by the patient during an already stressful time in their lives. Integrity Home Care + Hospice Volunteer Coordinator, Lea Anne Thompson, explains, “When a person is no longer able to care for themself or their pet, it can leave a hole in the heart that can only be filled by a furry, four-legged companion. When it’s not possible to have your own, sometimes a visit by a Certified Therapy Animal can help.”

During a visit from an Integrity Home Care Therapy Animal, a patient may simply wish to pet and interact with the animal. Or, in some cases, the patient may derive more comfort from having the pet lie down on a blanket beside them for a little snuggle time. Sometimes, the introduction of a therapy pet can even serve as a way for an emotionally withdrawn patient to begin opening up. Thompson remembers the first time she witnessed this benefit of pet therapy occur with an Alzheimer’s patient over five years ago: 

“…the covers slowly peeled back and she (the patient) saw the dog, threw back the covers, and threw her arm around the dog’s neck. Laughing the most joyful laugh. She began asking the volunteer about the dog; what kind, how old, etc.” 

The nurses who were watching this take place would later tell Thompson that this patient was typically expressionless, and that this was the most engaged they had seen her in months. 

Integrity Home Care + Hospice is proud to offer pet therapy and pet-assisted activities to our patients and clients, because we know the powerfully positive effect pets can have on the sick and/or isolated in our communities. If you would like to learn more about how therapy pets can help you, your loved one, or residents in your facilities, please contact one of our volunteer coordinators at Volunteer@IntegrityHC.com, or call us at 855-442-4968!

Integrity Home Care Team petting a dog for pet therapy