Visiting therapy animals in the nursing home

Visiting therapy animals in the nursing home

Vher hooves clatter down the hallway of the nursing home. Andrea Tigges-Angelidis is leading a brown Shetland pony by a halter and knocks on a room door. “Hello, do you want a visitor? The ponies are back in the house today”, she calls and then carefully opens the door. Dieter Fröbe is lying in his bed in the room. The old man is visibly moved when he sees the little horse. “I’m very surprised. That’s great,” he says softly. “That’s Paulinchen,” says Tigges-Angelidis. The animal takes a small step forward. The eighty-nine-year-old says, “Well, darling,” and strokes the animal’s soft brown fur.

On this wintry afternoon, Tigges-Angelidis loaded two ponies into her trailer and took them to the nursing home in Sachsenhausen. She visits here about once a month. Then she visits different stations and moves from room to room with the animals. “These mini Shetties simply give happiness, beautiful moments and positive moments,” says the fifty-six-year-old, who works full-time as an educator. “Some residents cry with happiness when we come.”

Not every pony is suitable

Nursing home employee Sarah Rogage experiences again and again how much her old protégés look forward to seeing the animals. “For many, visiting the ponies is always a real highlight”, a welcome change in the usually monotonous, always the same daily routine. Of course, not all residents have a “connection” to the horses, “but many are happy because they used to have animals themselves and couldn’t take them home with them”.

Resident Christine Müller is sitting on the bench in front of the elevators, in front of her is Toffee, the second Shetland pony. The seventy-seven-year-old laughs, puts her arms around the quiet animal and kisses its white fur. The East German, who has been living in the Frankfurt nursing home for several years, does not have any fears of contact. She happily tells of a horse farm near Gotha where she used to work. “I always have to watch out for Mrs. Müller, because she’s disappeared into her room twice with a pony,” says Tigges-Angelidis.

A kiss for toffee: A visit from the ponies is a welcome change for the residents.

picture series

Toffee and Paulinchen

Shetland ponies visit nursing home

Not every pony is suitable for such visits to a home, the training of the animals for this task takes at least a year, reports the expert, who also visits daycare centers and the severely disabled with her therapy animals – in addition to the ponies, these also include owls and birds of prey accompanied. “The ponies have to be incredibly friendly and patient,” says Tigges-Angelidis, describing the requirement profile. And they would have to learn to get used to things that were unusual for them: narrow elevators or clattering crockery trolleys, for example. And of course the constant touching and hugging.

Dogs are also used as therapy animals. For example, from the association “Tröstende Pfoten” in Flörsheim in the Main-Taunus district, which supports and organizes the training of therapy dogs throughout Germany. These animals would then be used in homes or by private individuals in palliative care, reports palliative care nurse Ivana Seger, who founded the association six years ago. The animals have a special feeling for people and often have an enormous calming effect on the patient. “In the often difficult and sad situations, when many relatives are at a loss for words, the dogs can achieve incredible things just by their presence.” And how Andrea Tigges-Angelidis’ ponies bring a little joy.

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