Furry friends – the best medicine for loneliness

By HBH - 8 February 2019

Furry friends – the best medicine for loneliness

With Lynne Fisher, Activities Assistant, HBH Senior Living

Lynne Fisher loves her busy and varied and role as an activities assistant at HBH Senior Living. During her three years in the role, she’s noticed the difference the Eden Alternative has made to residents’ lives – in particular the therapeutic effect of animals.

Lynne works at HBH three mornings a week and on those days, Maple is with her every step of the way. She says her daughter Tara was very keen on getting a dog, “so we got an early birthday present for Tara’s 11th birthday and a new dog to join the HBH animal family”.

Lynne and Tara met with the SPCA to find exactly the right dog to fit all their special requirements. “The SPCA were amazing!” enthuses Lynne. “They do a full character assessment and put so much into finding the right dog for the situation. Maple is perfect – named to complement our cat Waffles!” Although Lynne suggests she should really be called ‘Joy’ as she brings so much joy to the residents.

One of the requirements Lynne and Tara stipulated with the SPCA was that the dog be larger so that residents don’t have to bend down to pat it. “Maple has such a wonderful temperament. She is so gentle and courteous.”

“One patient has severe dementia and doesn’t speak, but she put her hand out to take the lead and walked with Maple to the cinema,” says Lynne. “It’s obvious she has a special connection with animals. Maple slept through the movie but it was so lovely for this patient to have a loyal companion with her as she watched the movie.”

Rocco the resident HBH cat and Maple are regular attendees at the weekly church service – although they often both sleep through it! Maple also attends music sessions and is never fazed by people banging drums. She’s also happy to sit with residents while they’re having blood tests.

Since Lynne has worked at HBH Senior Living, she has seen the Eden Alternative philosophy grow to be something very powerful. “HBH has always been a place of great kindness. The Eden Alternative has made it even more wonderful.

There’s more spontaneity during the day: we’re no longer ‘staff’ and ‘residents’ but it’s more like one big family. It’s now much less institutionalised and more like a home. If anyone thinks they’ll be lonely at HBH, they’ve got to be joking. One lady said to me, “I’m never lonely now that the cat sleeps in my room!”

rocco

Rocco the resident HBH cat regularly attends church services

Lisa Waldren
lisa@inspirationpoint.co.nz