Animal-assisted therapy, also known as pet therapy, has been used for many years. Hospital settings use pets to help patients, as do long term care facilities, and assisted living facilities. There are many benefits of pet therapy, especially for seniors living at home alone.
Pet therapy can have a very positive effect on a senior. Be curious about the value of pet therapy.
The stroking of a pet is calming and studies have shown people who interact with pets:
have lower blood pressure
stay active by walking or playing with their pet
have increased levels of the brain chemical serotonin
have less chance of becoming depressed and decreased anxiety
have decreased pain
Pets make great companions and those who own pets seem to focus more on the present. They also show more interest in their hobbies and activities.
A pet can alleviate depression, loneliness, and isolation. For people who’ve lost their spouse or whose grown children have moved away, a pet can be a great source of friendship and companionship. Seniors have a tendency to withdraw socially, especially those with Alzheimer’s disease and those living alone. They don’t feel like cultivating new relationships and also tend to focus on the past.
Animal-assisted therapy can provide seniors with more energy. Seniors start to live a more active lifestyle when they have an animal to care for. Feeding, grooming and playing with an animal can provide them with activities that are less sedentary than their usual lifestyle would provide.
Trained therapy animals can also:
- open doors, cupboards, refrigerators, dryers, etc.
- retrieve cordless phones
- activate switches
- aid in dressing
- carry items and pick up dropped items
- assist in case of falls
- help in climbing stairs
- provide balance when walking
What to Know When Picking a Pet for Therapy
Several factors that should be considered when helping a senior decide on a pet.
Type of pet:
Having a pet adds routine to your day. Pets require regular feeding and exercise and they may help a lonely person get out of bed each day because they have a responsibility to their pet.
Consider the energy level and lifestyle of the potential pet owner. Some seniors will require lower maintenance pets such as birds or fish. Other seniors can handle more lively pets such as cats or dogs.
Dogs can be wonderful companions who encourage a senior with no major physical disabilities to walk and get out more. For those who are physically challenged, cats often need less care than dogs.
This is something all potential pet owners should consider. Some pets have dander to which many people are allergic. Even hypo allergenic dogs so be mindful if you suspect you have any allergies. If allergies are a factor, a bird or a fish might be the best choice.
Not only should a senior consider the cost of purchasing their pet, but the cost of care for the pet, as well. Many seniors are on a fixed income and a pet needs to be an affordable option. Food, vet bills and medications are all added expenses to be considered.
However, the overall value of pet therapy can be priceless! Check out options for pet therapy in your area!