HAO Senior Therapy

HAO Senior Therapy

The Healing Animals Organisation (HAO) would like to invite members who are interested in joining HAO Senior Therapy. This is a very special addition to the HAO family and very dear to my heart. It involved my wonderful mum, a loving care home and Lily my dog. I can honestly say this has been a very rewarding addition to my healing work and could be for you too.  Just imagine you and your dog visiting residents in care/residential/nursing homes.

We are all growing older and most of us know senior folk, whether it be family members, clients, neighbours or friends. I know if and when I find myself in a residential/nursing home I hope somebody would come visit me with their dog.

It is not until you have experience visiting a senior person in a residential home do you realise how incredibly important it is to have canine and human visitors; a dog to stroke and love, a dog and guardian to talk to, a dog to love you back unconditionally……. this could be you and your dog.

This is a very rewarding opportunity to add to your healing work.

This is my mum’s story and what inspired me to set up HAO Senior Therapy.

Mum always loved my dogs and over the years looked after them when I went abroad to work with animals. Alf my long haired Jack Russell loved to stay with mum and dad. He had such jolly times, being taken for walks along the beach, groomed daily and thoroughly spoilt. When Dad and Alf passed over, Lily my 13 year old Norfolk Terrier took over Alf’s role and loved to visit mum too. Many a time I would find mum sitting in her favourite armchair, chatting to Lily and reminiscing on times gone by. I swear that Lily’s face was so enquiring and engaged in mum’s conversation she knew exactly what mum was talking about.  Lily would lay her tiny body over mum’s knees with her face towards mum, her big brown eyes locked on mum’s as they both loved the attention and companionship of each other.

Two months after mum’s glorious 90th birthday party my sister and I were worried about mum’s health. In the space of a few months our wonderful mum had gone from being an independent, confident woman living in her own home: cooking, shopping, doing chores and running her home like clockwork to a senior lady needing nursing care and a supportive team of loving care assistants.

Luckily my lovely sister found a wonderful nursing home in Weston Super Mare called Highcroft. It was everything we could ever have wished for our darling mum at this stage of her life. The owner, Ann is passionate about the wellbeing and care for each and every one of the residents. So much so she has created a home from home environment: Clean, beautifully decorated bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms, nutritious home cooked food and a mix of stimulating and relaxing activities during the week to satisfy every resident’s needs.

Mum settled in well and when I visited mum I often took Lily with me. Ann and the staff at Highcroft were always pleased to receive a visit from Lily. They could immediately see the benefits of pet interaction for their senior residents.

Mum was always thrilled to see Lily, often stroking and petting her and interested to know what she had been up to.  You could see a twinkle and warmth in mum’s eyes and a beaming smile spread across her face as Lily entered the room. Lily loves to please and always enjoyed visiting mum. As Lily was a small dog I would carefully place her on mum’s lap and mum would lovingly stoke her and talk to her, just like she used to at mum’s house. Again Lily would respond and look up at mum with her large brown almond eyes and affectionately bury her head in mum’s lap and sometimes go to sleep. Mum loved the warmth of this bundle of joy and a beautiful relationship developed between these two senior souls.

Lily also loved to be with the other residents in the lounge and would walk round to each chair: gazing up at the ladies and gentlemen, wagging her tail and visibly smiling, patiently waiting to be stroked and petted. Again, if residents wanted to stroke Lily I would place her on their laps or place her on my lap so the ladies could stroke her. Even if residents were asleep Lily and I would quietly walk onto the next person.  The room was abuzz with interest and amusement as each resident wanted to stroke and pet Lily. Some residents read to Lily, some were so keen to know about Lily’s life as a roving animal ambassador for the Healing Animals Organisation.  Many reminisced with me about pets that had shared their lives with them over the years. It was wonderful to hear their life stories and the love and companionship they shared with their dogs and cats.

Some were so pleased to see a dog visitor as sadly some of the residents had no surviving family or friends to visit them at all. As one resident put it…         “It would be a lonely place without animals!” As a professional complementary therapist it gave me a wonderful opportunity to get to know the other residents mum had become friends with at Highcroft.  It’s amazing how much joy and pleasure Lily brought to this wonderful nursing home, including the dedicated staff who loved to see Lily too.

Residents would look forward to Lily’s visits and always enquired how she was when on occasions she couldn’t come with me to visit mum. As mum’s health deteriorated and she was confined to her bed, mum requested that Lily be placed along the side of her on the bed. Lily dutifully obliged and the nursing staff was very empathetic to the situation. As mum stroked her back, Lily would quietly lie next to mum and they would fall asleep together. Together they looked so content, peaceful and relaxed.

When our beautiful mum passed over in March 2017 I began to think how wonderful it would be to bring a well behaved and loving dog to visit residents in care homes. I know first-hand how much joy and happiness Lily gave to my mum and residents at Highcroft. In the space of her one hour monthly visits, Lily had everyone engaged with her: stroking and petting her, communicating with her and me, as we listened to residents past life events and stories. It was lovely to hear tales involving beautiful pets that have shared their lives over the years.  A two way street of love poured from Lily to the residents and back.

I too, found myself feeling very grateful to spend quality time with such loving senior people and witnessing the positive health benefits Lily gave to each resident. It has been a very rewarding and a humbling experience. One I am eager to repeat with other senior residents at care homes.

I hope from reading mum’s story you may wish to join HAO Senior Therapy with your dog. Please email me for an application form and the detailed practical assessment