A Different Kind of Pet Therapy
Mike McClernonMay 6th, 2020
Long Island Elder News
Pictured above is Lucy, a typical pet therapy dog breed.
Pet therapy is one of the most popular activities in any Dementia Care or Assisted Living community. Specially trained dogs (mainly) provide comfort to seniors and bring a special calm to those suffering from Dementia related to Alzheimer’s and other conditions.
One problem holding back the further availability of Pet Therapy, though, is the relative inability to provide enough trained and certified dogs for all the people who would like visits from them.
One local home care agency, Right at Home North Shore and Queens, has taken a step to fill that gap for Dementia patients receiving home care. As part of their specialized care program for dementia patients, The Cognitive Support Program, Right at Home is introducing a lifelike robotic dog from Hasbro specifically to provide comfort to elderly dementia patients. Phyllis Newbert, VP for Right at Home in this area, commented that “This dog is so lifelike! It has a heartbeat, it responds physically to touch, and it responds to your voice. I compare this to doll therapy, which is used very effectively with Dementia patients. The ability to comfort and be comforted in a calm and quiet way is very valuable for elderly people with cognitive difficulties.”
Ms. Newbert continues – “We find that caring for an elderly dementia patient in the home is a ‘family project’. Dementia patients respond in fairly predictable ways to different types of stimulation, interaction, and care. Most importantly, it’s possible with the Cognitive Support Program to teach caregivers how to avoid some of the triggers that can confuse and frustrate dementia patients. When, despite best efforts, a dementia patient does become confused or agitated, there are specific techniques to help the person regain a sense of calm and peace. This is what we teach our own employees and families with the Cognitive Support Program. It’s been highly effective for both families and seniors with dementia.”
Mike McClernon, owner of Assisted Living Locators of Long Island and proud parent of Lucy the Golden Retriever, shared “Most people will stop what they are doing, both physically and mentally, to pet and interact with a calm and friendly dog. Petting a dog just changes the equation, and it brings you back to a centered and happy place. As a committed ‘dog person’, I’m pleased that Right at Home has brought in a dog substitute to serve the needs of many people who don’t have regular access to a trained and certified therapy animal. For some dementia patients, it can help turn a frustrating day into a happy one. And that’s exactly what we are looking for in dementia care – More Happy Days.”
For more information on the Cognitive Support Program from Right at Home of the North Shore and Queens, visit their website.