Connecting with animals in aged care

Birchwood pets

Connecting with animals in aged care

How care homes and their residents can benefit from time with animals 

As part of our dedication to enriching residents’ lives, we’re always exploring interesting ways to support holistic well-being. Animals can be a big part of life. From childhood companions and pets to hobbies, we interact with animals in many ways. When mature adults move into a care home, they might miss the presence of animals. They can bring joy and comfort, and their ability to provide a sense of connection shouldn’t be underestimated. However, there can be limitations on what care homes can achieve. That’s why we like to think outside the box. It’s important to us that we support residents to enjoy each day and do the things that they love. So, while we aren’t able to have permanent pets at our care home, we help residents access the benefits of interacting with animals through other activities and events. When you choose a care home like Birchwood House, you’re choosing a team that will go above and beyond for you or your loved one. 

The benefits of animals and comfort companions 

Animals can help reduce stress and lower blood pressure. They can also increase social interaction, connection, and joy. They can do this by influencing hormone levels in the body. For example, petting an animal often releases serotonin (the ‘happy hormone’) in the brain. This lowers blood pressure and encourages positivity.  The presence of animals can significantly improve emotional, social, and physical well-being through: 

  1. Emotional support and connection: Animals provide a sense of companionship that can alleviate feelings of loneliness and depression. The release of endorphins from interacting with animals can have a calming effect and help reduce stress. 
  1. Social engagement: Animals can act as social catalysts, encouraging conversations and interactions among residents. This can be particularly beneficial for those who are shy or withdrawn. 
  1. Physical health benefits: Engaging with animals can encourage physical activity, whether it’s through walking a dog, playing with a cat, or simply moving to interact with a pet. This can help improve mobility and overall physical health. 
  1. Cognitive stimulation: Activities involving animals can stimulate memory and cognitive functions, providing mental exercise and promoting alertness. 

Incorporating animals into life at a care home 

As much as we’d love to have pets at Birchwood House, it’s not practical or suitable for all of our residents. So, while we do not have residential animals or pets, our team creatively weave them into our residents’ lives when possible. Some of the ways we make this happen include: 

Visits from pets: Many of our staff members bring their well-behaved pets to work, offering residents the chance to interact with friendly dogs. This month was ‘Take Your Dog to Work Day,’ which many residents loved. We are careful to ensure that any pets visiting are well-behaved and comfortable around residents and that residents are made aware of the visit beforehand. Our team have also set up a lovely sun-lit space in the conservatory for visiting dogs. We have a toy basket, cooling mats and water bowls so that our four-legged visitors can enjoy all the comforts of home. We welcome visitors to bring their dogs along. They can relax in the beautiful conservatory setting and enjoy a fresh walk around our grounds.

Take Your Dog to Work Day

Activities and events: Our Autumn Enchanted Woodland Day is a great example of how we support our residents to enjoy the company of animals. At this event, a variety of woodland animals visited our grounds and charmed residents whilst their keeper shared fun, interesting facts. The event gave residents some very special memories to take away from the day. This included everything from rabbits and sheep to hedgehogs, providing a wonderful, enriching experience. It also offered a safe environment for residents to engage with interesting animals alongside a trained professional. 

Enchanted Woodland Event

Natural encounters: We encourage residents to enjoy and observe the natural wildlife in our picturesque surroundings. This can be a peaceful and fulfilling way to enjoy the benefits of animals and nature. Birchwood House’s nine-acre landscaped grounds are home to a variety of wildlife. This includes garden variety delights like birds, butterflies, and bees. The real standout of our local wildlife, though, is the wild Kentish deer!  

Deer at Birchwood House

Supporting holistic well-being 

We are committed to providing outstanding care that supports the holistic wellbeing of our residents. Finding ways to interact with animals and the natural world is a testament to our dedication. It helps enhance many residents’ quality of life, making each day brighter and more meaningful. 

Interested in learning more about our approach to mental health and wellbeing? Read our previous blog

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