United is keen to work with universities to further research into health and aging, so when Mount Royal University’s third-year nursing students, who are doing a six-week practicum placement with United, proposed a visit by PALS (Pet Access League Society) to the Fish Creek community, United jumped at the opportunity to welcome a few four-footed furry friends.
“Pets have a real benefit to people with dementia and other health issues,” said Dayna Dakin, a third-year nursing program student. “As part of our nursing studies, we are looking at non-pharmacological approaches to treatment of behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia, which should used as a first-line approach.”
Studies have shown that pets can improve a person’s physical and mental health. PALS uses specially trained dogs, cats and other animals to visit hospitals, schools and community organizations.
“There is a general movement away from relying heavily on just medications,” said Jasmine Hwang, a clinical nursing instructor at Mount Royal University. “We know that United’s programming takes a different approach to dementia and aging well, so we wanted to build on that strength by introducing a PALS visit to residents. Regardless of differences in culture, people can connect through pets, much like the way music and the arts transcend culture and language.”
“Pets are so important,” added student Caroline Kaminski. “Many of the residents used to have pets, and while United’s communities accept pets, some of the residents don’t have them now, so a visit by PALS brings back memories of a family pet they used to have.”
Allen Mackey, a resident at United’s Fish Creek community was excited by the chance to take part in the PALS visit. “I like dogs. We had one as a family pet and my uncle had several on the family farm. Any time I get to see them is fine with me. They are so gentle.”
Other residents had similar reactions. “It’s so priceless to have the dogs here,” said one. Another simply said, “I love dogs!”
“It’s not just about bringing people in contact with pets,” said Jasmine. “There is a deep connection between people and animals – a bond that is created. The feedback we have received from residents is very positive.”
Photos and video by Sherana Productions.
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To learn more about life at United’s Fish Creek community, watch this short video.