At Centrica Care Navigators, we’re proud of all the services we offer — many things above and beyond the minimum services that hospice is required to provide.
That’s what we mean when we say you and your loved ones are in the center of our circle of care. We want to focus on not just your physical health, but your mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being too. One of the best ways to do that is to bring along a dog.
One service we have offered for many years is pet therapy, where specially trained dogs pay a visit to a patient’s home or their room in an assisted living facility or one of our hospice sites.
While visiting a patient, dogs might play and do tricks, or they may simply sit quietly while they are petted. Maybe a patient doesn’t have the interest or energy to interact with a dog, but just seeing an animal sparks a wonderful memory for them, which gets them talking about their past — and participating in the world around them.
Looking for pet partners
Pet appointments, whether they’re once a week or every month, are something many of our patients look forward to. Unfortunately, we can’t bring dogs to visit every patient who might want to see them — we just don’t have enough participants! That’s why we’re looking for more pet therapy volunteers right now.
Pet therapy is one of our signature programs. We want to have enough volunteers to fill all our requests for pet therapy visits — our social workers regularly recommend patients have one-on-one time with a friendly dog, for the benefit of a patient’s health. Without enough volunteers, some patients don’t get a visit, or the dog is only able to stop by once or twice while the person is in care.
Here’s why it’s important
Research finds that pets help patients by improving their mood; they have lower levels of anxiety and reduced feelings of loneliness. Some patients show a decrease in blood pressure, and fewer and less intense feelings of physical pain.
Even the act of reaching out to scratch a dog behind the ears can help someone get exercise. Playing with a pet therapy animal might be the most interaction and active movement a patient gets all week, making it something they are really excited about.
Our pet therapy volunteers say their dogs like the attention from care patients, too, almost as much as the patients enjoy each visit.
Pet therapy isn’t limited to dogs, though they are the most common type of therapy animal. Though we’ve never had a therapy cat, we’re open to the idea. Other animals like pigs or horses haven’t been part of our pet therapy program before, but if you have an animal that could be the right fit, talk with us!
Will you help out?
Bringing a therapy animal to patients in hospice and our care sites isn’t as simple as just showing up at the door, though we appreciate the enthusiasm. There’s some registration paperwork and a test needed before a dog can be a certified pet therapy animal. The test is in place to make sure they’re calm and patient around sometimes fragile people. Dogs need to sit and stand still while they’re petted, for example, and they can’t get excited and jump up on people when they walk into a room.
We require certification from a national pet therapy organization. Most often, our pet therapists have certification from the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. We also accept pet therapy certification from Pet Partners, which certifies both cats and dogs.
Our Centrica Care Navigators team offers some training specifically for volunteers, and helps them find assignments and patients where their pet would be a great fit.
You and your pet can lend a friendly paw today! Find out more on our Volunteer webpage.