When Silver Chain therapy assistant Leah Smith discovered her client’s love for pigs, she arranged a surprise visit for the 96-year-old’s birthday in the form of a little bundle of squealing joy.

And judging by the tears of happiness from Barbara Hampson during yesterday’s special visit, cuddles with five-week-old Rosco was the perfect birthday gift for the former hobby farmer.

Silver Chain’s approach to animal therapy is just one part of a wide range of allied health services offered by the organisation. Silver Chain Group is the nation’s largest in-home care specialist that has been providing safe, reliable and quality care to Australians for the past 125 years and to Western Australians for more than 115 years. 

Barbara initially engaged Silver Chain’s physiotherapy services in Mandurah in August, with the goal of being able to walk to the movies and improve her balance to reduce the risk of falls. Frequent falls in the past, before engaging Silver Chain, had left Barbara with a fear of falling and lack of confidence.

Working with Barbara three times a week to help regain body strength and confidence, Leah soon learnt of Barbara’s love for pigs and other animals she cared for on her Bindoon hobby farm for nine years as a retirement move.

“Barbara has made such great progress, not only with how well she’s moving again, but it’s given her a new lease on life and she’s now engaged with her community again,” Leah said.

“Being able to arrange the piglet to visit was just the icing on the cake for Barbara’s birthday, as she knows better than anyone the health benefits of bonding with an animal.”

Barbara said: “I loved today - it’s been one of my best birthdays. I love company, particularly from animals. Meeting Rosco brings back memories of my own piglets.” Barbara, who had four piglets and a flock of 25 sheep, turned 96 last week (November 3). 

Silver Chain’s Allied Health Manager Kathryn Devereux said global research had shown pets eased loneliness and reduced social isolation, as well as providing increased motivation and enhanced mood. 

“It’s wonderful when we’re able to see our clients such as Barbara achieve their physical goals and tailoring our services to meet individual needs can also mean going that extra mile, which is what Leah has been able to achieve for Barbara.”

Ms Devereux said Silver Chain’s allied health professionals worked in a range of settings across health and aged care services. 

“They support our clients to recover from illness or health events, prevent deterioration and hospital admissions, sustain health and wellbeing, and maintain independence,” she said.

 * Image credit: Claire Sadler, Mandurah Mail 

Allied health professionals are a key part of Silver Chain services in WA and include a range of frontline staff such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists, social workers, spiritual care workers, chronic disease coordinators, wellbeing specialists, exercise physiologists, pharmacists, educators, podiatrists, dieticians and speech pathologists.