Chicago resident Gertrude Baluczynski leaned over and touched her head to the forehead of Lunar, a miniature therapy horse, seeming to have a communal moment.
Two miniature therapy horses named Lunar and Grace from Lake in the Hills-based Mane in Heaven visited Wednesday with patients at the Older Adult Services of Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, in Des Plaines. The miniature horses are registered for animal-assisted therapy through Pet Partners and are specially trained for providing comfort and healing to those in need.
"The people here have various different health needs. The horses don't know that. So when they experience that one-on-one time, the people forget what their illnesses are. They start smiling and their anxiety goes away," said Gwynne Chovanec, director for Older Adult Services of Advocate Lutheran General Hospital. "The miniature horses are almost magical and they are having magical moments with the horses."
The small horses wore purple tennis shoes and pink socks as they walked around the room visiting the patients, some suffering from early-stage Alzheimer's disease, dementia, the effects of stroke and Parkinson's disease. The specially made shoes keep them from slipping on floors.
"I think this is fantastic with the interaction between the horses and the people. They both gain from it," said client Lonnie van Cuyk of Schaumburg after brushing the mane of the small horse named Lunar. "I think it very relaxing and, at the same time, you want to let them know that you love them."
Older Adult Services has been supporting the elderly and their families in the community since its inception in 1980. Information is at www.advocatehealth.com/luth-older-adult-services.