Animal Assisted Therapies
Numerous studies have shown that interacting with animals can have significant physiological and psychological benefits for people.
The presence of a friendly companion animal can help to lower blood pressure, reduce feelings of anxiety and isolation, and foster a greater sense of well-being. In fact, simply petting an animal can trigger the release of beneficial hormones that enhance mood
To make these therapeutic benefits available to our patients and their families, Providence Hospice of Seattle offers animal-assisted activities/therapy (AAA/T) as part of our Complementary Therapy program.
What is animal-assisted activities/therapy (AAA/T)?
Animal-assisted activities/therapy (sometimes referred to as "pet therapy") is a visit or series of visits from a volunteer AAA/T team (a handler and his or her dog) to a patient or family who has requested them through their hospice care team. These visits are intended to encourage emotional connection, alleviate stress and feelings of isolation, and promote self-esteem. They can also provide opportunities for life review and the sharing of memories and stories.
During a visit from an AAA/T team, the patient and/or family members can:
- Pet, hug, or talk to the dog
- Throw a ball for the dog to fetch
- Give commands to the dog ("sit," "lie down," "get"); this can be especially empowering for younger patients and/or family members
- Simply sit or lie quietly with the dog at their feet or by their side
Providence Hospice of Seattle is a registered facility with Connecting Canines and Delta Society, both internationally recognized organizations that set standards for animal-assisted activities/therapy. Our volunteer AAA/T teams are rigorously screened for appropriateness in working with hospice patients and families. Handlers and their dogs must pass a certification with a specialized hospice team evaluation. In addition, handlers must successfully complete our Core and Patient Care volunteer trainings.
What do AAA/T volunteer teams do?
Providence Hospice of Seattle's volunteer AAA/T teams visit hospice patients and families in skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, adult family homes, and appropriate private residences. AAA/T teams are typically assigned to patients/families based on their geographic location and availability.
While the primary focus of each visit is on the interaction of the dog with the patient and/or family members, volunteer AAA/T handlers are also trained to be a compassionate presence and provide emotional support as needed.
How do I become an AAA/T volunteer?
To become an AAA/T volunteer with Providence Hospice of Seattle, you must:
- Complete the certification with Connecting Canines or Delta Society’s Pet Partners Program with your dog and maintain current registration as a Pet Partners team
- Perform at least three months of volunteer service with your dog as a Pet Partners team at another facility or organization
- Submit a Providence Hospice of Seattle volunteer application (Word | PDF) and participate in an interview with our AAA/T program coordinator
- Pass a team evaluation with your dog at Providence Hospice of Seattle
- Complete Providence Hospice of Seattle's Core and Patient Care volunteer trainings (30 hours)
- If interested in volunteering with our pediatric program, complete the Stepping Stones volunteer training (4 hours)
Please note that at this time, Providence Hospice of Seattle only accepts Pet Partners teams with dogs.
For more information, or to request that a volunteer application be mailed to you, please contact Volunteer Services at (206) 320-4000 or (888) 782-4445, or via e-mail at HOSvolunteerservices@providence.org.