The ‘pawsitive’ effects of owning a dog after a brain injury
As I discussed in my last blog, integrating animals into therapy provides a unique experience that encourages people to engage in their therapy and helps with social communication skills that might be impaired following their injury. Not only can animals be beneficial in therapy but owning pets can also really help. Most commonly, dogs have been found to play an important part in providing people with companionship and comfort following their injury.
Brain injuries can impact people in different ways however it is common for their injury to cause a personality change. This means that people might be more confused, angry and unpredictable than they were before the injury. This can have a big impact on their relationship with friends and family as they are not the same person they were before. This can lead to isolation and feelings of loneliness, as people may feel like they do not want to socialise. If they have aphasia, they might also find it difficult to communicate with other people. Dogs can play a huge part in filling this gap: providing a friend, company and a pathway to a less isolated life.
The company of a dog is especially important if a person with brain injury is feeling fatigued. This is a common effect following a brain injury so having a dog to sit on the sofa with you when you do not have the energy to do anything or be around anyone is invaluable. Even just petting them can be calming and comforting which may also help with mental health wellbeing.
Owning a dog can also have physical benefits. It encourages the owner to exercise through walks and playing, increasing their physical activity and helping to re-build the social skills they may have lost due to their injury – for example through speaking to another dog owner in the park. Even through looking after their dog and completing activities, such as grooming and feeding them, they can improve their motor skills and help with rehabilitation.
Headway Suffolk, a branch of the national brain injury charity Headway UK, runs a scheme called Brainy Dogs in which shelter dogs are specially trained and then given to people who have suffered from a brain injury. You can hear the amazing stories of how the dogs have improved their quality of life on the website.
As a dog owner and lover, I am writing from a bias perspective however owning any kind of pet can still help with rehabilitation following a brain injury. They provide people a listening ear, the motivation to continue with their rehabilitation and most importantly – a friend.
Victoria Moore is a paralegal in the Adult Brain Injury team at Bolt Burdon Kemp. If you feel you may have a claim or are enquiring on behalf of a loved one, contact Victoria free of charge and in confidence at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, complete this form and one of the solicitors in the Adult Brain Injury team will contact you. Find out more about the Adult Brain Injury team.