New Program at WFUBMC Uses Pets to Help Patients Cope with Illness

September 3, 1999

Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center is offering a new program to help patients cope with illness and injury.

The program, called Animal-Assisted Activity/Therapy Program (AAA/TP), uses dogs and cats to help patients overcome depression and physical illness, which allows them to re-engage in life, according to recreational therapists at the Medical Center.

A pilot program, AAA/TP was developed by the Animal Resources Program and Recreation Therapy for the Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, and Transitional Care and Acute Care for the Elderly Units of the J. Paul Sticht Center on Aging and Rehabilitation.

"Animals are an important part of many people''s lives," said Suzanne Melcher, a recreation therapist, who works with child and adolescent psychology patients at the Medical Center. "Similar programs at other institutions have been shown to improve patient quality of life, can shorten length of hospitalization and can have a positive effect on patients of all ages."

Other benefits include: increased opportunities for social interactions, companionship, experiences of unconditional love, and development of healthy relationships.

The objectives of the program are to increase self-esteem, increase socialization skills, decrease feelings of isolation and loneliness, provide a sense of control, increase freedom to experience fun and enjoyment, increase awareness of physical functioning, and decrease depressive symptoms and anxiety due to illness and hospitalization.

"This program is used as a complimentary therapy to help patients cope with illness," Melcher said.

For more information about the program, call 716-6628.


Media Contact: Rae Beasley (336) 716-6878 or Jim Steele (336) 716-3487.

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