Animal-assisted activities in hospitals – A project to humanize care

The new project of the Gruppo San Donato Foundation, supported by the Fondazione Prossimo Mio, will include animal-assisted activities annually in the group’s hospitals: IRCCS Policlinico San Donato, Policlinico San Pietro, Policlinico San Marco, Istituti Clinici Zucchi di Carate Brianza, Istituto Clinico- Città di Brescia, Istituto Clinico Sant’Anna, Istituto Clinico San Rocco, Istituto Clinico Beato Matteo.

In fact, a lot of scientific evidence demonstrates the potential of the use of animals as a part of care, in particular in hospitals and in retirement homes, places in which people are separated from the love and support of people near and dear to them. Even just the presence of an animal during situations that are perceived as stressful (for example, undergoing invasive exams or medical care) is known to reduce levels of anxiety, blood pressure, and the rate of the heart beat. Scientific studies have shown how physical contact with an animal induces a reduction of the hormones in the blood that are responsible for responding to stress (cortisol). Furthermore, the selfsame physical contact causes an increase in the quantity of hormones and neurotransmitters able to determine positive emotions and to reduce anxiety and stress.

In Italy, various approaches to animal-assisted interventions (IAA) can be identified based on which component prevails: so-called game-recreation (assisted-activity with animals, AAA), education (assisted-education with animals, EAA), or therapy (assisted-therapy with animals, TAA).