Damon Culbert from Wild Science, provider of animal therapy in care homes across the UK, talks about the difference between short visits from animals and dedicated Animal Assisted Therapy.
Animals in care homes are a growing phenomenon attempting to improve the wellbeing of the elderly in long-term care. Many residential care providers have sung the praises of therapy dogs, cats, horses and even lizards in their ability to animate residents and stimulate social interaction. But what are the recorded benefits of animal therapy and should every care home invite animals in?
Not every encounter that seniors have with animals will qualify as animal therapy. Animal Assisted Therapy is defined as targeted therapy interventions which make use of an animal to achieve set goals. Examples in care homes might include having a resident walk a dog regularly in order to improve or maintain mobility functions long-term or games between animals and residents to encourage social interaction between residents experiencing heightened feelings of loneliness.