Beaked therapist brings joy to Masters Lodge residents

March 24, 2021
March 24, 2021

A cheeky sulphur-crested cockatoo named Callahan and his band of furry and feathered friends is giving BlueCare Masters Lodge aged care home residents at Hervey Bay a new lease on life.

The winged sensation is one of several therapy animals that visit Masters Lodge each month thanks to the leadership of BlueCare Diversional Therapist Tracey Beach and Pet & Engagement Therapies Team leader Debbie Cork, who delivers the animal-assisted therapy to residents in care with the support of local volunteers and the Hervey Bay Animal Refuge.

Numerous studies have reported that animals exert favourable effects on psychological, physiological and social aspects of human wellbeing, and Callahan and his friends Harvey the Eclectus Parrot, Sooty the Poodle, Ebony the Shih Tzu, Dotti the French Bulldog, and Bently and Gizmo the Chihuahuas, certainly bring smiles to residents’ faces during their regular visits.

“The pet therapy team really helps our residents to recall memories and spark connections when they see them. Suddenly they start remembering the names of old pets, so you have all these wonderful conversations with them about their animals that we’ve never had before,” Tracey says.

Debbie, a former nurse, agrees: “People who are usually silent will see the animals and then go into a big, long conversation about their pets.”

She said she recognised the need for this kind of support for people in care five years ago and has been visiting Masters Lodge with husband Simon ever since. Tracey, who has been working at Masters Lodge for nearly nine years now, said she can still remember the residents’ reaction to that very first visit.

“It was this spark - the residents just came alive. To see the smiles appear on their faces and engage in meaningful conversation when they typically wouldn’t, it really was amazing.

“Being able to pick up an animal, and bring it close to you and cuddle it, it really is magical to witness that. The animals just have this way of making our residents feel loved and special,” Tracey says.

And it’s not just the residents who benefit from making friends with the animals. Debbie says facilitating the animal-assisted therapy sessions at BlueCare brings her and fellow volunteers personal joy and fulfilment.

“The best way to make yourself whole is by helping other people. On the days we come here we go home and feel like we’ve done something, more than if we went to a job and got a big wage; this really goes to the heart. It has helped both my husband and I amazingly, and we’re very grateful to be able to do it.”

Watch the pet therapy team in action.

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