Four-legged therapy

June 22, 2021 BY

VMCH aged care resident Bernie said dog therapy was uplifting.

A TORQUAY aged care home is hoping to enrich the lives of residents by employing four-legged therapists. Villa Maria Catholic Homes (VMCH) is launching its ‘Pawfect Companions’ program across its 11 aged care facilities including the Torquay-based VMCH Star of the Sea residence. With community donations, the aged care service is hoping to fund fortnightly dog therapy sessions for its 980 residents over the next two years. VMCH chief executive officer Sonya Smart said therapy animals have proven to have a positive affect on emotional, physical and physiological health as well as improving the quality of life. “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,” she said. “Many of our residents had pet dogs before they moved into residential aged care, and often talk of their beloved companions.” Aged care facilities have been amongst the worst impacted by changing COVID-19 restrictions with visits from loved ones and social outings placed on hold. VMCH resident Bernie said pet therapy helps to make everyone feel happy and uplifted. “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,” Bernie said. Ms Smart said the campaign will focus on creating entertainment within the homes of residents. “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?’,” she 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 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.” To donate head to the VMCH website or call 1800 036 377.
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