Pet therapy team sticks doggedly to nursing home – via Skype
Volunteers with the Humane Society of Greater Miami’s Pet Therapy Team didn’t let the self-quarantine in place stop them from bringing much-needed therapy sessions to a local elderly nursing home.
Unable to make their routine in-person visits to nursing homes, courthouse and hospitals, humane society volunteer and head of the therapy sessions Dr. Yair Levy thought of a clever way to virtually provide pet therapy sessions with his 7-year-old cavalier king spaniel, Choco.
“For the past six years, we have been visiting residents from Regents Park [at Aventura]” said Mr. Levy, who would visit the nursing home with his children every Friday afternoon before the quarantine shutdown visitation privileges. “This was a way to teach my children about the importance of giving back to the community.”
It had been three weeks since visitation restrictions were in place for the elderly nursing home and residents were beginning to miss the company of their furry friend. “They didn’t know when they would get to see Choco again,” Mr. Levy said. “We needed to find a way for Choco to do her job of uplifting spirits.”
Regents Park was able to obtain donated iPads for its residents and via Skype they got the chance to see their loyal four-legged friend once again. With the help of Regents staff, Choco toured the facility, uplifting spirits and putting smiles from ear-to-ear, Mr. Levy said about the 20 residents who always wait to get their time with Choco. “I literally had to hold back my tears.”
“Residents have a special attachment and relationship with Choco,” he said. “Under these special circumstances, once they see her on the screen, they quickly connected with her… This is our way of making their day.”
When Regents’ activities director Marco Bruno heard about the virtual pet therapy sessions, he thought it was a fantastic idea. “The Levy family are very persistent in meeting the needs of our community and we can always count on them to come or in this case, Skype to still meet the needs of our residents.”
Residents were already learning the process of Facetiming with family members during these challenging times when they got the chance to see Choco, Mr. Bruno said. “It was a pleasant surprise for our residents, instantly putting a smile on their faces.”
Mr. Bruno said he received many “thank you’s” and stares of disbelieve. “This brings them great comfort during a time that might be challenging or confusing, especially when they don’t know what’s going to happen moving forward,” he said.
Choco, along with the Levys, will continue to virtually visit weekly at Regents Park at Aventura elderly home until they are able to visit again in person.