Horse helps suburban hospice patients deal with pain, anxiety

Some hospice patients entering their final months are getting help dealing with pain and anxiety from an unusual source -- a horse.

It is a new Equine Therapy for about a dozen patients in north suburban Niles. It’s helping them deal with pain and anxiety.

Jacqueline Yuh grew up with horses on a farm in southern France, which is why Friday’s visit with Eddie the horse brings back so many warm memories.

"I grow up with horses. I was two years old they put me on a big horse,” Yuh said.

Yuh is one of about a dozen hospice and palliative care patients at the Avanti Wellness Center in Niles, who are taking part in a new Equine Therapy program.

Doctor Jasmine Chao runs the program and says by spending time with Eddie, feeding him, brushing him, talking to him, the seniors are lowering their pain and anxiety.

"My goal is to bring them a sense of inner peace by having them to interact with the horses, a beautiful animal, to reflect and understand there's still happiness. There's still something they can experience even in this last stretch of life,” Dr. Chao said.

Eddie is a former racehorse still living at Arlington Park. His trainer says they gets as much out of the program as the seniors do.

"See a smile on their face. They're like Dr. Chao says, in no pain. And that's what you don't want to see them in anymore. If this makes them happy and have no more pain I'm all for it,” said horse trainer Alan Love.

Eddie will be coming back to meet with the seniors every Friday for the next six weeks or so. Dr. Chao says she'd like to expand this program to other hospice centers in the Chicago area.