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Mercy Hospice's animal-assisted therapy program, Source of Unconditional Love (SOUL), offers terminally ill patients and their families a welcome respite from their often challenging and overwhelming, daily activities.
SOUL at Mercy offers visits by four-legged volunteers and their handlers, also hospice volunteers, to hospice patients and any patient in Sacramento area Mercy hospitals. Upon request, SOUL volunteers visit patients in their home, in the hospital or at the facility where they are living.
Health Benefits of Animal-Assisted Therapy
Numerous studies show the beneficial and therapeutic effects of animals on sick and older individuals. Research indicates that simply petting an animal can lower blood pressure and help people relax. The sheer joy that patients and caregivers experience during a SOUL visit is perhaps the most important benefit of all.
The patient controls each visit's length and activities. Some patients may choose to enjoy the animal from a distance or, depending on their physical strength, the patient can choose to have the animal lie close enough to be stroked or brushed. Changing the patient's focus from discomfort to happiness is the ultimate goal.
With physician approval, any Mercy patient can request a SOUL visit. If appropriate, animal-assisted therapy can be incorporated into a patient's care plan. Staffed completely by volunteers, SOUL is free to Mercy patients.