A Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) can put a lot of limitations on the day to day tasks of the victim. Such injuries could result in permanent disabilities in some and may require several weeks of focused rehabilitation efforts to resume normalcy for others. Brain Rehab Centers in India are using service animals to help victims recover from SCI.
Service animals are the newest rehabilitation method that helps SCI victims lead a normal life.
What are Service Animals?
Service animals aren’t pets. They are caregivers and able companions, but they also work for you. They help patients recovering from traumatic injuries feel looked after during their rehabilitation period.
Any animal can be trained to be a service animal. But practically, service animals are limited to dogs. Dogs have always remained a man’s best friend. Their acute sense of loyalty and ability to be trained, make them the best choice for a service animal. People generally prefer bigger dogs, as they are easily trainable and offer a sense of security. They are also large enough to handle physically challenging tasks.
Other animals who could be considered as service animals include
- Cats – especially known for their dexterity, however, are less trainable than dogs
- Birds – more intelligent than cats or dogs. They can get to spots where cats or dogs normally can’t reach.
- Monkeys – again, these are intelligent animals and are increasingly being considered as a service animal. But these animals share the same psychological and intellectual requirements as humans and hence can be a poor choice.
- Any domesticated animal that has the intelligence and ability to help humans can be trained to become service animals.
Some of these are common in many countries across the world.
How can Service Animals Help You?
Brain rehab centres in India face the greatest challenge of finding the right animal friend to service an SCI survivor. The choice mostly depends on the needs of the individual requiring such service. Some typical tasks that these service animals can perform for you are:
- Warning you of potential dangers
- Assist you in navigating around, particularly for those whose sensory abilities (vision and hearing) were impacted as a result of SCI.
- Support you with simple chores like turning on and off lights/fans, opening and closing doors, reaching out objects for you, tracking lost items, etc.
- They can offer comfort during times of depression, anxiety or panic attacks, which are common occurrences in SCI survivors.
- Help you to avoid medical emergencies. These animals can be trained to recognize signs of seizures, heart attacks, etc. and can respond with a sense of urgency by seeking immediate help before it can be too late.
- Support you to sit or stand
- Serve you by bringing drinks, medication and food.
How to Train A Service Animal?
Despite efforts from brain rehab centres in India to project service animals as potential rehabilitation therapy, this concept is still not fully understood and explored by all. The West has embraced this concept totally, but in India, people are still not even aware that such therapy exists.
In India, to begin with, most public places are not disabled-friendly. Also, having an animal as a service assistant still does not appeal to many people in society.
Given these hurdles, patients often wonder how to train these animals. Worry not. You don’t have to teach them yourselves. In spite of the many challenges, few organizations have taken up the task of training these furry friends.
The animal first gets to live with the individual who will train them. After the basic training regime, you will be required to work with the animal, with the assistance of the trainer, to customize and finalise the kind of training necessary for the animal, specifically for your needs.
These organizations also handle the legal formalities of acquiring a service animal.
Service Animals as Therapists
In the process of providing help for day-to-day activities, service animals establish a steady companionship with the individuals. Their presence in the lives of these people helps them regain their lost confidence. These animals boost the morale of their handlers and give them a sense of independence and newfound strength. Their presence can be therapeutic and can help the SCI survivors deal with stress and anxiety. Despite their unfortunate situation, most people begin to lead normal healthy lives and start healing from the inside.