“Not all medicine comes in a bottle.” The slogan for The Mid-South Therapy Dogs & Friends is evident for patients on the ninth floor of Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto. Patients light up at the sight of the friendly animals on the Acute Care for the Elderly Unit that uses holistic approaches to help treatment.
The ACE unit is the first of its kind at a Mississippi hospital, and pet therapy is one of several programs that acute care colleagues have introduced to patients in the unit. Volunteers at Mid-South Therapy Dogs & Friends frequently bring the dogs to lift the spirits of patients.
“Since volunteers like Terry Pegram started three years ago bringing Mid-South Therapy Dogs & Friends to our hospital, we’ve seen remarkable strides by patients who otherwise were having difficulties,” said Cindy Evans, director of nursing for the ACE unit at Baptist DeSoto.
Evans describes a patient who did not have the desire to leave her bed for more than two months. During a visit with one of the therapy dogs, Belle, the patient was able to leave her room in a wheelchair to walk the dog. A week later, her health improved tremendously because of her newfound mobility.
“Many people miss their pets when they are admitted into our hospital. It’s our goal to give them a more home-like setting and raise their spirits in non-traditional ways,” she said.
The ACE team includes an advanced practical nurse, a social worker, a nutritionist, an occupational therapist, a pharmacist and a medical doctor collaborating to create an individualized care plan to improve patients’ mobility, reduce depression and maximize overall satisfaction.
All members bring their expertise in working with older adults to the team and continue to receive special training. Their efforts help patients make smooth transitions from hospital to home life.
The unit creates a home-like setting with uncluttered hallways and rooms and a peaceful quiet zone for patients and visitors.
“Everything from low glare flooring and a warm color palette to a common recreational area is designed to promote mobility and socialization, two cornerstones of recovery for the elderly patient,” said Evans. “Improving mobility is high on the priority list as it makes it easier for patients to return to their own home rather than a nursing home.”
In addition to the pet therapy, the unit recently launched the DINE program, where volunteers provide feeding assistance by encouraging the patients to eat, while at the same time socializing with them.
They also hope to incorporate music therapy.