The Elmdale ward in Halifax is enjoying visits from a special visitor of the furry variety. Robert Butler and his dog Suzie have been making regular visits to the Elmdale ward at the Calderdale Royal Hospital as part of the ward’s occupational therapy sessions.
The Elmdale ward is a 24 bed unit for adults who are experiencing mental distress. Occupational therapists (OTs) from the ward have been working to help service users with their recovery by enrolling the help of man’s best friend, provided by Pets as Therapy.
Pets as Therapy is a national charity founded in 1983. It is unique in that it provides therapeutic visits to hospitals, hospices, nursing and care homes, special needs schools and a variety of other venues by volunteers with their own friendly temperament tested and vaccinated dogs and cats.
Service users can often feel isolated and even the most withdrawn seem to open up and let the barriers down when their regular Pets as Therapy visiting dog is around. These dogs bring everyday life closer and with it all the happy associations for them of home. The constant companionship of an undemanding animal, that gives unconditional love, is often one of the most missed aspects of their lives. Pets as Therapy was formed to help make this loss more bearable and speed recovery.
People on the ward have reported numerous benefits from the service with comments such as ‘it’s made me feel better’ and ‘it’s lifted my mood’. The sessions don’t rely on verbal interaction and have proved invaluable in promoting interaction and participation with service users experiencing difficulties with verbal communication.
Speaking about the sessions occupational therapist Kath Nichols said, "Clients have often related seeing Suzie to their own pets and this connection has stimulated conversation about people’s own experiences of caring for a pet. The visits are funded by charity and it has been a fantastic way of introducing a new dimension to the inpatient work on Elmdale. We are extremely grateful to the charity for their support!"