Thursday, 30 October 2008

ICAWC 2008 Presentation: Animals as Therapy in Human Health - Alexandra More

Previous presentation: Education - Anneleise Smillie

Alexandra More is based at The State Hospital, the only high security hospital for Scotland and Northern Ireland. Among the 170 patients, the average stay is 7 years, varying from a few weeks to 30+ years.

12:15: Among the animals at the hospital are:

20 hens
40 ducks
7 geese
1 cat
2 kune kune pigs (Thelma and Louise!)

and many more birds, fish, companion and farm animals. Gorgeous Splash the cat, who is blind, is very popular and very much a part of life there.

12:25: Criteria for accepting a therapy animal are not as cut and dried as you might think. Working with more challenging animals can be of enormous benefit in terms of engendering a sense of achievement in patients, and demonstrating that behaviour can be changed.

The sessions provide opportunities for group and 1-1 experiences with animals, and for social interaction and assessment. Some patients are able to gain qualifications too.

Activities include:
  • Walks with dogs
  • Cleaning sheds / run / cages
  • Feeding birds and animals
  • Replenishing water containers
  • Grooming
  • Daily health checks
  • Feed ordering
  • Maintenance
  • Playing with animals
The transferable, practical skills are incredibly varied.

12:30: What other benefits for the patient?
  • Awareness of their environment is increased
  • Desire to learn about animals needs, because of the enthusiasm of a response from a living being
  • Ability to discuss and demonstrate emotions that might not be shown to humans
  • Ability to deal with aggressive thoughts and feelings
  • Ability to empathise
  • Social interaction
  • Problem solving
  • Improvement in physical health
Alexandra presents some anecdotal evidence and case studies to support the findings.

All the speakers will be available for group 'speakeasy' sessions at the end of each day so that anyone with questions can approach and have an informal chat away from the microphones - a relief for some of our more nervous speakers (like me!) I think, and a great opportunity for delegates to converse at more length than a normal Q&A allows.

12:45: And now... lunch! Back at 2pm (GMT +1) for more. You'll be here, right?


Next presentation: Human-Animal Interaction: PhD Research Findings - Anne-Marie Wordley

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