naturheilzentrum blog: therapists on four paws - dogs, cats and horses can be valuable helpers in cases of dementia and other brain disorders
new possibilities via animal-assisted therapy for the treatment of spasticity or following a stroke?
hello, my name is vanessa krickhahn and i am a trained animal physiotherapist. furthermore, i see and study many children and adults, who are confronted with brain disorders, in daily practice at my workplace in naturheilzentrum bottrop. it is my opinion that conventional medical treatments and alternative medical treatments do not conflict with each other in the rehabilitation process. rather, they complement one another. time and again, i have experienced what alternatives can open up for afflicted patients, despite diagnoses such as traumatic brain injury (tbi) or dementia. it is something special to be actively involved in the healing process and to be able to accompany children and adults on their path here during rehabilitation. the joy of witnessing every little step forward for the patients themselves and, of course, their relatives. it’s a super feeling. very emotional - even for me, as part of the great whole.
therapy dogs regularly visit the naturopathic practice and they also encounter us all in everyday life
i think you can understand what those little miracles bring about, time and again, in our nabo team. have you ever been present when a seemingly long-buried memory suddenly becomes tangible again? when a memory of bygone times reawakens? my bosses – the bottrop-based naturopaths, farid zitoun and christian rüger - support and integrate animal-assisted treatment into our health institution here in the ruhr area. i know how effective and important this approach is from my primary training as an animal physiotherapist.
you have surely also heard of therapy dogs that make regular visits to retirement homes, right? i like to jokingly refer to them as "therapists on four paws", but in professional jargon, the whole thing is called animal-assisted therapy.
it has long been established that the residents benefit from it. when you look into their faces, you do not necessarily require a scientific study as evidence of how effective the work of an animal can be. the reactions to the four-footed creatures are palpable. you see how the patients’ faces relax when they touch the soft fur of the dogs. they instantly become calmer. for dementia patients, memories of their own childhood often awaken. they begin to tell tales of waldi or purzel, their family dogs. the radiance and the smiles that goes with this gets right under the skin and touches everyone’s hearts. these are very special moments for the patients, for their relatives, and for me too.
evidence for the success of animal-assisted therapy
dresden university, among other institutions, has examined the effect of animal-assisted therapy on the quality of life and well-being of People with dementia. the study, which is, incidentally, the first of its kind in germany, was conducted over a period of three years. the results show that there are multifaceted ways to increase the quality of life of those affected. this includes animal visits. patients with regular contact to animals were proven to be more mobile, independent and socially better integrated. everything that the animal therapists can do has therefore been scientifically documented.
today it is common practice for many residential facilities to have animals living on the grounds, which are regularly brought to the patients on the wards or to the individual residential groups. furthermore, there are external therapists who come into the homes with their master or mistress. but that was not always the case. can you still remember that it would have been unimaginable, a few years ago, for a dog to show up in a retirement home or a health facility? the shouts about hygiene concerns would have been extremely loud. a lot has been done here in recent years, particularly with regard to rethinking the ways to promote health, among other things. thank god.
coma patients respond to animal visitors
as you have already heard, i am a total fan of animal-assisted therapy. especially because it is not only able to achieve so much in dementia patients, but it has also been proven that even patients with other brain disorders or those in a vegetative state react positively to animal visitors. spasticity dissolves, the general condition becomes more stable. similar effects have, incidentally, also been observed in hippotherapy (equine-assisted therapy). the entire musculoskeletal system becomes newly leveled on horseback. children with developmental retardation or delays, in particular, learn trust, and gain new physical feeling. patients with paralysis, whom i also see regularly at nabo, have shown that they develop a completely new feeling in the center of their bodies via animal-assisted therapy. spasticity subsides, while there are benefits for posture and a sense of balance.
a friend’s grandfather, who comes from the sauerland area, participated in hippotherapy during his rehabilitation following a stroke. at first, he found it utter nonsense. "what am i supposed to do on a horse at my age?" he moaned. but the therapists did not let up and were proven to be right in the end. today, the old gentleman can walk again on his own two feet. no trace of unilateral paralysis can be detected any more.
the work that the animal therapists frequently support is super, isn’t it?
the best thing of all is: whether it’s a horse, dog or cat ... the animals still bring huge joy here. what do you think of animal-assisted therapy? have you already had experience of it?
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