For over 50 years, animal therapy has been bringing a unique type of care to people who are facing illnesses and aging, especially seniors. There are many types of animal therapy including dog, horse, bird, cat, reptiles, and even dolphins.
Therapy dogs are becoming the most popular type of therapy animal to enrich the lives of people with physical and mental conditions. The trend of pet therapy continues to grow in practice and many institutions, and residential homes have welcomed therapy dogs to help people who have been diagnosed with illnesses looking for a little extra attention, especially seniors. In fact, research studies show that seniors with physical limitations as well as dementia can benefit from regular interaction with therapy dogs.
Who’s a Good Boy
Think of how calming it is to have a dog by your side to keep you company. That sense of peace and companionship is one of the main reasons people own pets. Seniors can also reap benefits from therapy dogs that go beyond the feel-good hormones that are released when petting a dog. Benefits include:
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduction in anxiety
- Release of calming endorphins
- Lessening of depression symptoms
- Slower heart rate
- Decrease in loneliness
Therapy dogs can also encourage seniors to become active including going for walks and playing with tennis balls. A study looking at 2,500 adults aged 71-82 showed that adults who regularly walked dogs had more mobility inside the house than non-pet owners.
Here Kitty, Kitty
Some independent seniors can continue to own a pet, but for others who need assistance with their activities of daily living, pet ownership may no longer be a realistic choice. Providing care and cleaning up after a pet can be challenging for people who need assistance with their own needs. In addition, small dogs and cats tend to be underfoot, creating a fall hazard for people who may already have other risk factors. Seniors face the challenge of having to give up their pet when the care for themselves becomes too difficult. This can be a tough transition especially when their pet was a companion. Visiting therapy dogs are a great option for those seniors who cannot care for a pet of their own.
Every Dog Has Its Day
Did you know that Home Helpers of Drexel Hill has a therapy dog on staff? Our therapy dog Chad is available to visit clients at home, in nursing homes, rehab facilities, and certain hospitals. Animal shelters, health departments, and other services may either offer therapy dogs or can provide information about pet therapy resources in your area. Some facilities also have therapy pets either on site or for scheduled visits with residents. You may want to ask for details about how a pet therapy program works; some things to consider are:
- Do the pets receive obedience training?
- Are they well socialized?
- Do they have experience with wheelchairs, walkers, and other assistive devices?
If you would like to learn more about pet therapy or other programs for seniors, we can help. Home Helpers is dedicated to improving the quality of life for seniors, caregivers, and the family members who love them. If you would like more information about a visit from our therapy dog in your area, please call our office at 484-461-8887.