Glenview aged care residents reap the benefits of regular visits by therapy pets

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Glenview Community Services in Tasmania helps residents live a rewarding life with a range of services and activities from music therapy, gardening and cooking club to regular visits from therapy pets.

Glenview’s Activities Coordinator Meagan Lee has been working at the organisation’s two sites - Windsor Street residential aged care site in Glenorchy and Korongee Dementia Village in Derwent Park – since 2012 and regularly brings along her 2-year-old ‘trainee therapy dog’, Astro, to spread love and joy to the residents.
“I’m unashamedly proud of what a natural he is at reading people’s emotions and giving love to so many,” said Meagan.
Another staff member’s trainee therapy dog, Paddington, visits residents at Glenview’s Korongee facility, a purpose-built village for people living with dementia located in Derwent Park.

“We don’t have any residents with pets, but we do have budgies at our Windsor Street site and chickens living at Korongee,” she said.

Glenview engages a local Alpaca farm with specially trained Alpacas to visit the facility and a local school that brings farm animals.
“Volunteers bring pet rabbits and orphaned lambs, and we plan outings to see horses both privately owned and through Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA). Also visitors are encouraged to bring their pets in to visit if appropriate and we regularly have both canine and feline visitors!” said Meagan.
Meagan got Astro, a Border Collie/ Golden Retriever cross, as a puppy and started bringing him to work with her increasingly more as he settled out of his excitable puppy stage.

Over time, “I saw his beautiful personality blossom and his natural talent for reading people’s emotions shine through,” she said, and began to bring him to Glenview more frequently and take his therapy training more seriously.

At both of Glenview’s facilities, Astro spends his day following Meagan about her regular duties which tend to take her all over the facility. He also spends time in the morning and afternoon visiting residents in their rooms.

“We visit anyone and everyone, but also have a list of people who really love Astro’s visits and those who are more isolated or perhaps confined to their beds for various reasons,” said Meagan. “He is learning to put his front paws up onto beds when prompted so that people with decreased mobility can still reach him for a good pat. Astro works really hard and it’s really tiring for him, so I find he needs a rest in the middle of the day. This usually involves a good nap under my desk!”

It's clear Astro has a positive impact on Glenview residents and staff.

“The joy on residents’ faces when they see Astro approaching is testament to the positive impact he has. Residents remember him and greet him like he is their own!” said Meagan.

“We know that there are many proven benefits to Pet Therapy in aged care and it is evident in his interactions and the responses he receives. The sensory and tactile effect of patting and touching a dog (or any animal in fact) has been shown to lower stress levels. Luckily Astro is happy to help lower stress levels all day long!”

Meagan also enjoys witnessing the positive impact Astro has on staff.

“Those small moments where they can stop to say hello and give him a pat can really add something different to their day at work,” she said.

If Astro could talk about being a therapy dog, Meagan thinks he would say, “I love making people smile. I’ve been working on my ‘puppy eyes’ since I was a wee boy; I use them to make anyone feel loved, even on their worst days. My favourite part is all the cuddles I get and the new people I meet; oh how I love people! I know I’m a handsome boy and my smile melts hearts!”

Meagan knows how important it would be for her own wellbeing to have her pets with her in aged care.

“I think it is vital to have (pet friendly) options available for people moving into care,” she said. “I understand the challenges that can come with allowing pets in a shared living environment, especially when it accommodates people living with complex needs and conditions. But the positive benefits to people’s health and wellbeing are evident and must be considered.”

Meagan believes pet friendly rooms and spaces should be accounted for in the building of all new facilities and, where possible, accommodated in current facilities.

“It is such a fantastic way to value add to any organisation. We are seeing changes in so many industries because the benefits of pets are so widely known and accepted. We must take this on board and change the way we do things for the better!” she said.

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