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A Senior’s Best Friend – Pet Therapy in Simblija Care Home

13 Jan 2022

It’s no surprise that growing older can often lead to the increased risk of individuals feeling lonely, isolated, and sometimes in worst case scenarios, even spark mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. At Simblija Care Home, we are always looking for creative solutions to ensure our residents have the best possible quality of life, while in our care.

This never-ending desire to improve the lives of our residents means we are always researching in the hope of uncovering the newest and most effective techniques to care for elderly people. As a result of our research, we are constantly rolling out new stimulating activities for our residents in order to both engage them and inject a bit of fun into their daily routine.

We firmly believe in the powers of “outside-of-the-box therapies”, Pet Therapy being one notable mention. This kind of therapy has been found to help reduce feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety in the elderly. It is for this reason, we decided to introduce this worthwhile treatment into Simblija Care Home by welcoming two new residents back in 2018, named Sugar and Spice, the bunnies. Sugar and Spice quickly settled into their new home, and we continued the roll out of Pet Therapy by starting guided interactions between residents and bunnies. Petting, brushing and caring for the animals are some wholesome and therapeutic activities enjoyed by residents daily.

It was clear that once our residents began cohabiting with their new fluffy friends, they began to grow a greater sense of purpose in their daily routine. Suddenly they were excited and had genuine interest to get out of bed each day as they looked forward to spending quality time with the bunnies. It was noticeable that this added to their mental and physical stimulation.

It has been heart-warming seeing both the relationships and sense of ownership develop between our bunnies and residents, as each day more of our residents are checking that their bunny’s always have a good supply of food and water. This gives them a sense of taking care of something and feeling needed seeing as in the past most were the main caregivers in families. We have seen many cases, which is particularly ground-breaking in relation to our dementia patients, whereby while with a bunny, patients are triggered to recall previous positive experiences with animals. This moment of clarity from our residents makes it all worthwhile for us, especially when this is the first time we are seeing such powerful results being delivered from treatment.

Due to the success of our bunny therapy, we have now introduced two birds onto the Simblija Care Home premises. The birds are not as personal when interacting with residents, as bunnies would be, but they provide life, daily laughter, light and entertainment to the care home and our residents. In addition, we have started working with the MSPCA who help us coordinate monthly visits from the shelter’s dogs. The dogs and the residents do wonders for each other, as each party is so excited and thrilled with the company of the other. These days at Simblija have very quickly become everyone’s’ favourite as every resident and member of staff are so excited and energised by our furry visitors.

We have found that the dogs calm some of our residents down whilst causing some residents with dementia to interact when they normally might not. We are excited to be able to say that we have seen the mental wellbeing of our residents improve greatly over the past few months, due to the care home’s daily activities, the continuation of Pet Therapy, and since residents can once again regularly see family members and friends. With this current routine we have been able to provide them with a lifestyle more similar to the one many of them experienced in their more independent years, it is one concentrated on relieving loneliness, one abundant in family, fun and friendship. All this makes us really proud and delighted to be able to contribute so positively to the lives of our residents on a daily basis.

By Charmaine Montesin