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It’s not just two-legged visitors who come to see loved ones at the Methodist Hospice Residence. Four-legged visitors also come to spend time with their special someone. Take for instance, Gracie, a three- year old Shih Tzu. Gracie comes a couple of times a week with her “mom” Diana Kelly to see her “grandma,” Anita Emery.
“My mother always lights up when Gracie comes to visit,” said Kelly. “She really looks forward to Gracie stopping by.”
Kelly also says the nurses sometime ask her to take Gracie to visit other patients at the Residence. “Some patients do not have a lot to look forward to and Gracie’s visit is often the highlight of their day,” said Kelly.
Residential hospice programs across the country have realized the benefits and joy a pet can bring to patients. Taleka Perry, director of clinical services for the Methodist Hospice Residence, has seen first-hand the positive impact an animal can provide patients.
“The biggest differences we see are when patients transfer from the hospital,” explained Perry. “Patients may have been in the hospital for a few weeks where their pet wasn’t allowed, and once they arrive at the Residence, they are ecstatic to learn that their pet can visit. It’s very gratifying to see their faces light up when they realize they can spend time with their furry best friend.”
Studies show pets can provide a number of emotional and medical benefits including calming anxieties, reducing stress, and lowering blood pressure. Clay Jackson, M.D., is the medical director for the Methodist Hospice Residence and believes animals and people have a special bond and he has seen patients respond to that bond.
“We find that patients, both communicative and non-communicative, benefit from interacting with dogs,” states Dr. Jackson. “For instance, patients are often anxious in new situations and a dog’s presence and touch can help calm them.”
Dr. Jackson emphasizes that the physical touch is powerful and that includes the physical contact with a dog.
“For some patients where the human touch may be too painful, having the closeness of a dog and even having that dog get into the bed and curl up with them provides a physical touch and warmth that is enormously beneficial,” said Dr. Jackson.
Besides individual pets that come to visit, Penny, a pet therapy dog, visits patients regularly at the Methodist Hospice Residence. Patients look forward to her visit and Penny is always happy to see them too. Animals that come to visit must provide current shot records and be on a leash or carried while in the Residence.