Together We Can -- Newsletter of the Joan Karnell Cancer Center

Spring 2006

Obtaining the Best Possible Treatment
Message From the Administrator
Minimally Invasive Surgical Techniques
Pet Therapy
Favorite Recipes
JKCC Receives Komen Grant
Honors, Awards & Publications
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Household Pets Become Therapists at JKCC

Meet some of Joan Karnell Cancer Center's newest cancer treatment team – Annie, Chimay, Montana, Casey and Coco. You might have to look down to see them. These treatment team members are dogs and cats, part of Pennsylvania Hospital's Animal- Assisted Therapy program.

Animal-Assisted Therapy helps patients recover, boosts energy levels and elevates moods. At Pennsylvania Hospital, therapy teams have been visiting patients for over five years. This year, the Joan Karnell Cancer Center introduced the pet therapy program to its patients.

How Do Pets Heal?
Director of Volunteer Services Benedette D'Amore has been working with therapy teams since 2000. “Therapy dogs and cats help facilitate healing and recovery in patients,” says D'Amore, “It is a complementary therapy that has a therapeutic effect as well as a psychological benefit. Patients can't help but smile and have their spirits lifted when they hug a dog and see a tail wag or hold a cat and hear it purr.”

Recent studies show that pets help lower blood pressure, anxiety and stress levels. Animals have a soothing and calming effect on humans. Even animal grooming can put patients at ease.

Currently, about 10 dogs and two cats volunteer at the Joan Karnell Cancer Center. Right now, patients can spend time with the pets within a group setting. “At the cancer center, the program is new,” said D'Amore, “We thought the best way to introduce the pets would be in a group environment.” As more visitations occur and volunteer services receive positive feedback from patients, D'Amore hopes to add one-on-one visits between patients and pets.

What Makes a Pet a Pet Therapist?
Before joining the program, pets are certified through a nationally recognized organization such as the Delta Society, Therapy Dogs, Inc. and Comfort Caring Canines. Pets must be up to date with all their shots and must be in good health.

“Pets also need a good disposition,” says D'Amore, “They must be focused, obedient and nonreactive to loud noises or things that might startle them.”

Both “dog people” and “cat people” are invited to take advantage of the Animal-Assisted Therapy program at the Joan Karnell Cancer Center. For more information on how you and your pet can become a part of the program, call (215) 829-5187.


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