When it comes to senior care, sometimes we have to think outside of the box. If medications and therapy don’t offer a full solution, it might be time to turn to our furry friends to get our patients on the path to success. Anyone who has pet a therapy dog or cuddled with a therapy cat can understand their soothing and calming effect. This form of therapy can be a simple solution to your loved one’s needs. Below, we’ve listed just a few of the many benefits that can come along with pet therapy.


Feel Useful

When we age, we can often lose our sense of purpose.  Without a career, family, or home to tend to, one can develop feelings of self-doubt and uselessness. These feelings can be become amplified if one is suffering from depression or other common mental illnesses in elders. Introducing a therapy animal can revive a sense of purpose again. Having to groom, walk and feed a pet can give an older adult means of physical activity, social interaction, and a new meaning of self-purpose.


Lower Stress and Anxiety

Older patients who exhibit signs of mental illness can develop difficulty communicating, leading to feelings of extreme frustration, stress, and anxiety. A therapy pet can be a solution to this difficult problem. Their soothing and calm demeanor and unconditional love and loyalty can act to lower these stress and anxiety levels in older adults.


Increase Socialization

It’s not uncommon for elders to have feelings of loneliness and isolation as they age. Therapy animals can reintroduce interaction and socialization into an elder’s life.  The U.S. library of Medicine National Institute of Health reported longer and more in-depth conversations with a group of seniors who interacted with therapy dogs than a group that did not.  Therapy pets can also lead to increased physical exercise, and opportunity for human interaction.


Healthy Weight Gain

With age comes health complications and with health complications comes medication.  Some side effects of medication in older adults can lead to loss of appetite. Especially with patients of Dementia and Alzheimer’s it can be difficult to coheres them to consume the right amount of food.  The U.S. library of Medicine National Institute of Health reported seniors who were exposed to fish tanks in their nursing homes’ recreational room successfully gained more healthy weight than those who had exposure to only a scenic picture in their nursing home. This study suggests there is some correlation between having pets and healthy weight gain.


Benefits for the Animal

In addition to all of these added benefits to an elder’s quality of life, a rescue or older animal can benefit greatly from being placed with an elder.  Typically, someone in assisted living has more time and attention to give to an animal, resulting in pet therapy being a win-win situation.


If you are considering a therapy animal for your loved one, it’s always important to consult a doctor or medical professional to decide if this is right for them.  In addition, it’s important to evaluate and ensure your loved one will have the capacity to care for the animal.


At Loretto, we incorporate pet therapy into the care at many of our facilities. With 19 specialized programs and facilities and 2,500 hundred dedicated caregivers, Loretto is dedicated to providing quality care to the Central New York Community. We proudly serve 9,000 residents and their families with a system of care that addresses the unique needs of every individual. Looking for more information on care for you and your loved one? Contact us today!

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