Animal-assisted physical therapy

By Britney Glaser - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - When traditional physical therapy is just not enough or hospital patients need an extra push, animals could be the solution to a faster recovery.

It's just another day on the job for a couple of four-legged therapists at CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital.  But for the physical therapy patients, these furry friends could be the ticket to a speedier recovery as Pet Therapy Coordinator Susan Stanford explains.  "They're really motivation," she says, "if someone is really tired and depressed, they don't want to get up and walk, they'll see Ramon and it's 'let's get up and walk with Ramon!'"

Visits from Ramon and Freckles bring these stroke patients comfort and happiness.  For recent stroke patient Tommy Cummings, the partnership in therapy is something that keeps him moving forward.  "It gives you more energy and they make you want to work harder," he says.

Recreational Therapist Lee Wyatt has seen the spark that these dogs can ignite in discouraged patients.  "When they see a dog, when the pets come in the door," says Lee, "automatically you can see the change in a facial expression and mood."

Lee says that change in attitude can make for a more successful physical therapy session.  "We're encouraging speech, we're encouraging using the hands, the arms for rubbing and cuddling and even giving treats," she adds.

Without saying a word, these therapy dogs are able to communicate the simplest of messages.  "It's unconditional love," explains Susan, "they don't ask for anything.  They just want to be touched."

A win-win for patients and pooches!

*The therapy dogs are also brought around the hospital to the ICU waiting area to give a little comfort to those families having a rough time.  If you're interested in learning more about animal-assisted therapy, call Lee Wyatt at 430-4270.

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