Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Care Partner Wednesday--Powerful Medicine

                                       Our beautiful Lucy

If a medication claimed to lower your risk of heart attack, and increase your chances of survival one year after a heart attack, would you consider taking it? If it lowered your blood pressure, improved your vital signs, and reduced the need for other medications, would you be interested? What about if it helped with depression and other stress-related disorders…

“Oh come on. This is a hoax, right? A miracle pill that does all those things? Right.”

I confess. I don’t have a medication that does all that.

I have something better. I have a dog.

“Loving companionship is the antidote to loneliness. Elders deserve easy access to human and animal companionship.” Eden Alternative principle #3. 1.

To those used to the heavily regulated medical world, it may seem like a radical idea, but animals enhance the lives of elders. Not a dog person? What about a cat, or birds, or fish? For years, animals were forbidden in the sterile world of long-term-care, or only allowed on a limited, strictly-monitored basis. I can remember when the procedure for being a visiting dog was so stringent, no one applied.

We were so short-sighted.

Every Monday at 3:00, Lucy hurries through the door, anxious to visit her friends. Her eager eyes search for her favourites—Anne, whose face lights up, Mary who invites her to sit with her, and Bob, who reaches out to her. There are many others, and Lucy loves them all. They snuggle and cuddle and pet and kiss. Lucy is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

                        Lucy, eager to begin visiting her friends

Cloe and Lily live in different neighbourhoods. Cloe loves to sun herself on her platform by the window, but also has claimed one of the resident’s beds as her own. Lily is shyer, but will lumber to the lounge when her food dish is filled. As much beloved cats, they are as much a part of the neighbourhood as the residents.

                                   Cloe sunning in the window

When I went for Eden training in Pennsylvania, we stayed at a facility that had been practicing the Eden alternative for seven years. When we walked in, I was enthralled with a floor to ceiling cabinet that occupied one entire wall.  Instead of watching television all day, those residents watched the birds that inhabited the beautiful walnut and glass enclosure. I remember them chuckling over their antics and remarking to each other. It’s one of my dreams to have a version of this at Christie.

Doctor’s offices have long known the calming effects of fish tanks. When my oldest daughter was born, I would place her chair by our fish tank, and the rhythmic bubbling of the water and lazy swimming of the fish put her to sleep in no time. Another of my dreams…

Wee Teddy

Finally, let me introduce you to Teddy. In this picture, he is just 1 ½ weeks old, but he will be coming to live with me sometime in early January. Did I say live with me? He’ll come home with me every night, but during the day, he’ll be coming to work with me. This puppy will be trained, and grow up living among our elders, and will give and receive plenty of love from them every day.

Is this a radical, new idea? Not at all. In 1859, Florence Nightingale wrote, “a small pet is often an excellent companion for the sick, for long chronic cases especially.” 2

Florence knew.

Care Partner Wednesday--Powerful Medicine

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