Pet-assisted therapy boosts patients' well-being

This article is more than 12 months old

Patients undergoing animal-assisted therapy happier, more engaged

Outside Ang Mo Kio-Thye Hua Kwan Hospital, patients play with dogs or groom them as part of their occupational therapy.

Dogs Max and Cabi, together with cat Alfie, are among the six animals whose owners have volunteered for the weekly half-hour sessions, which help dementia patients and those with other cognitive problems improve their well-being.

The programme, the first of its kind here, is the brainchild of senior occupational therapist Gelena Anandarajah, who was inspired by her love for animals growing up and the "emotional support" her pets provided.

"As dementia progresses the patients lose the ability to communicate so they might not be able to tell you how they feel," said Ms Anandarajah, who won the Superstar Award in the intermediate and long-term care allied health category at the Singapore Health Quality Service Awards 2018 yesterday.

"But (the dogs) are quite sensitive (and) I feel they look more at the person's body language."

Since animal-assisted therapy sessions started in 2016, patients have been happier and more engaged, she added. They have also improved physically, such as in terms of standing and balance.

Ms Anandarajah, 28, was one of more than 3,500 who received awards at the MES Theatre at Mediacorp. They came from 30 public healthcare institutions, community hospitals, intermediate and long-term care sector agencies and private healthcare bodies.