Health in Brief

Bayhealth's pet assisted therapy program is a success. Plus, weight loss with a spiritual twist, family caregivers get a break, and more.

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Terry Schrenker, Bayhealth Medical Center’s director of volunteer services, consults with a couple of helpers. Photograph by Jared CastaldiA Patient’s Best Friend

Bayhealth’s pet assisted therapy program makes a hospital stay more pleasant.

Terry Schrenker remembers a 2-year-old’s screams shattering the quiet and order of Bayhealth’s Kent General’s halls. Then, as two cocker spaniels entered the room, as part of Bayhealth’s “pet-assisted therapy” program, the screams immediately melted into smiles. “Bayhealth began the program in 2006,” says Schrenker, Bayhealth’s director of volunteer services. “Today we have three teams that operate at Milford Memorial and Kent General.”

Pet assisted therapy is but one aspect of the medical center’s goal of becoming a Planetree Model of Patient Care affiliated facility, according to JoAnn Glenn-Lewin, guest relations director. “Planetree is a patient focused program that emphasizes making the hospital experience as pleasant as possible,” she says.

Schrenker says the trained and certified pooches range from Chihuahuas and border collies to labs. The dogs are trained not to bark and jump, among other disciplinary behaviors. Currently Bayhealth operates three teams, each consisting of a dog, a handler and a volunteer assistant.

“We offer dogs on a random basis to whoever requests the visit,” Schrenker says. “The visits vary in time, according to patient’s wishes and stamina, but each dog is limited to a maximum of two hours on the floor.”

Basic hospital hygiene is preserved by providing strollers to convey the dogs to avoid contact with the hospital floor, and wipes are provided to patients who wish to pet the animals.

In addition to screaming 2-year-olds, the dogs bring comfort to elderly pet owners who will be away from home and their pet for an extended period of time. “The dogs remind these patients of home, and also provide a diversion and distraction, helping patients to take their mind off their physical pain and their separation from home,” says Schrenker.

Page 2: Faithfully Fit | Dynamic Devotion Fitness Ministry promotes weight loss with a spiritual twist.

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