Dog Visits Enliven Nursing Home Patients

Every Wednesday, six to nine dogs get their weekly bath so they’re fresh and ready for the best part of the week. On Thursday, they make the trip to Milesian Manor in Magherafelt, where they’ll make the day a little brighter for dozens of nursing home residents.

“Our residents adore the dogs, and many of them benefit enormously from the engagement provided; we see them waiting patiently in reception to welcome the dogs each week when they arrive,” said Caitriona Doole, Specialist Mental Health Nurse and Nurse Manager at Milesian Manor.

The nursing home has fully embraced the idea of pet therapy. One of their former residents’ daughters used to bring in dogs all the time for a visit, and since that resident has passed on, she’s continued to bring the furry visitors on a regular basis, because it’s clear that they’ve made a huge difference in the mood of the patients.

Photo: YouTube/Birdsong Communications

“Engaging with an animal benefits humans of all ages both physically and mentally; it has been proven that pet therapy can lower blood pressure, reduce stress and anxiety and increase mobility and flexibility,” said Doole. “It also encourages mental stimulation as just by being there they encourage the person to interact in a way that perhaps they can’t normally due to medical or even emotional issues.

Four of the dogs are larger breeds, which some residents really love. They include a huge Newfoundland, a Labrador retriever, and two golden retrievers. The rest of the dogs are a smaller Shih-tzu breed, perfect for cuddling on the laps of patients who don’t have the mobility to reach down to pet a larger dog.

Photo: YouTube/Birdsong Communications

Many of the residents have one dog they are particularly attached to. “One resident, Stuart, walks a golden retriever called Finn every week around the wellness garden. He had kept dogs all through his life and they are an important part of his week,” said Doole. “Another resident, Isabella just loves to get one of the little dogs up on her knee; she’ll happily sit for hours stroking the dogs.”

And according to Doole, there’s some evidence the dogs help with dementia patients’ memories as well. “I’ve seen people living with dementia remembering the dog’s names from week to week that alone speaks volumes to me.”

Photo: YouTube/Birdsong Communications

On top of regular canine visits, the nursing home also offers residents a home-from-home social space, a cinema, a wellness garden, a café and a spa. These accommodations encourage the seniors to continue to live happy and active lives despite the limitations old age places on them.

Photo: YouTube/Birdsong Communications

“Our aim at Milesian Manor is provide care that puts our residents and their families first,” said Doole. “We strive to offer an exceptional programme of events each and every day that brings the residents a chance to engage in a variety of activities and utilise the wonderful spaces that we have.”

This nursing home is certainly doing a good job of providing companionship and mental and physical stimulation by bringing in friendly dogs to play and cuddle with. Check out the video below to see just how much enjoyment the residents get out of their regular weekly dog day:

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Elizabeth Morey graduated summa cum laude from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI, where she dual majored in English Literature and Spanish with minors in Writing and Business Administration. She was a member of the school's Insignis Honors Society and the president of the literary honors society Lambda Iota Tau.

Some of Elizabeth's special interests include Spanish and English linguistics, modern grammar and spelling, and journalism. She has been writing professionally for more than five years and specializes in health topics such as breast cancer, autism, diabetes, and Alzheimer's disease. Apart from her work at GreaterGood, she has also written art and culture articles for the Grand Rapids Magazine.

Elizabeth has lived in the beautiful Great Lakes State for most of her life but also loves to travel. She currently resides a short drive away from the dazzling shores of Lake Michigan with her beloved husband.

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