9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN16 Sociology of Health and Illness

2009-09-04 09:00:00 2009-09-04 10:30:00 Friday, 4 September 09:00 - 10:30 Formal and Informal Health Care Organisation and Health Care Delivery in Europe II Building I, 1E4

Pets in the context of individual-related services

Pets in the context of individual-related services

Pets in the context of care are not rare anymore. In Germany more than three-quarter of all retirement homes own pets and most of them allow the inhabitants to bring their pets along. But there are no sociological studies on the influence of pets on aging. The medical and psychological studies explore the effects of pets on patients. In Germany one can find two different types of animal service in care-organisations: pet visiting services and organisation-owned pets. A third possibility is that inhabitants bring their pets along. Finally, we find pets that live in homes of outpatients.

Patient-caregiver interactions are an important part of care work. Objects of care-labour are not material things but human beings with feelings and needs. So this kind of work cannot follow only learned and specified rules, but instead calls for quite a bit of intuition and the ability to forge links to patients. With specific patient categories - people with dementia or mentally disabled - communication in a normal way is mostly impossible. Yet it is very important for caregivers to develop contact with these patients. Increasingly, pets are perceived as very helpful in this respect. It is already well-known that pets exercise a positive influence on our health as well as being social catalysts and a resource of communication. These properties are used in the context of care and so pets are also a kind of service provider.

The main topic of my research is if and how interactions in care change because of the presence of pets. There is not only the intended interaction between patients and pets but also between caregivers and pets. This changes also the interaction between caregivers and patients, so my thesis. Questions connected to this are: How is it possible to establish such "new methods" in care? Do working-conditions change for caregivers in the presence of pets? Does this establish a new job market?