Patients reap benefits of pet therapy

Animals helped bring comfort and joy to cancer patients and elderly residents yesterday during the first visit of its kind to one of the country’s leading hospices.

A mini petting zoo, featuring an umbrella cockatoo, a giant Flemish rabbit, guinea pigs, a lamb, a goat, and an eight-week-old Jack Russell puppy called Dora, was set up in the garden area at Marymount Hospice in Cork before patients from its respite and palliative care wings were invited outside to meet them.

The patients, who were joined by relatives and staff, spent time holding and petting the animals as Rumley’s Farm animal manager Nicola Copithorne monitored proceedings.

She also brought some of the rabbits to the wards where those patients who were too sick to go outside got a chance to interact with the animals.

“It’s my first time doing this in a setting like this but you can see the faces of the patients light up,” said Ms Copithorne.

Máirín Cronin, the activities nurse manager for Marymount’s services for older people, said it was a huge success, and she hopes it will become, at least, an annual event.

It’s all about improving our service users’ quality of life, maintaining their life interests and fun and joy,” she said. “Pet therapy is well researched and documented in care settings and hospice settings and you can see the benefits — laughter, fun, intergenerational connections, grandchildren with their grandparents, it’s a really interactive day, full of fun.

“The animals bring so much joy to people — there is a sense of companionship and a sense of peace.

“There is a big focus here in helping the residents to remain active members of the community and while they can’t go out to a farm, we bring the farm in.”

Ms Cronin revealed that Marymount has forged links with Therapy Dogs of Ireland which will see pet therapy dogs visiting the facility at least once a week.

Marymount has facilitated several patients who have, in the past, asked that their pet cat or dog be allowed visit or even stay with them during their time in the hospice.

This was the first time a petting zoo had been set up on site.

Ivan Rumley, of Rumley’s Open Farm in Waterfall, said he was delighted to get involved.

“We’ve always try to support Marymount,” he said.

“We all know what a good cause it is and there isn’t a family in Ireland that hasn’t been touched in some way by cancer, so we were delighted to anything we could to support them.

“My own view is that animals can play a huge part in the healing or treatment of the sick — old or young.”


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