People living with dementia tend to struggle with loneliness, depression, anxiety and confusion. It is known that pet therapy can help reduce these symptoms and remove some of the anger, helplessness, and frustration experienced by these people as their condition progresses, therefore we have introduced 2 bunnies in our Butterfly Memory Support Unit.
Therapy with the bunnies involves guided interactions between the individual, animals and the carers. Some of the therapeutic experiences can include petting, brushing and caring for the animal. Having the bunnies living with them also instils a sense of routine as they look forward to feeding time and play time. One can notice a growing sense of ownership and care towards them as they check their food and water.
Whilst interacting with them one can notice increased mental stimulation, the patient starts to recall previous experiences with animals and this triggers reminiscence. One can also notice that the patient experiences more positive emotions and there is also an increase in their physical activity as they attempt to interact with the animals.
We also use pet therapy with other patients who do not suffer with dementia. Loneliness is one of the biggest struggles for the elderly. Although all efforts are made to engage them through activities, the elderly miss their family, neighbors and old lifestyle. Pet therapy is a very effective way to introduce a new ‘friend’ who they can care for, speak to and play with. This creates a sense of purpose in their routines, a feeling of having someone who depends on them.
Kim Agius Cutajar
Events & Activities Manager